Exhibit A-D: The Heel Strike. Like Whoa.
A couple weeks ago I finally utilized my groupon'd massage certificate. My first official massage! I gave the masseuse a brief background to my running and injuries, and she got to work. When she finally got to my piriformis, I almost started sobbing. She said she hadn't felt that tight of a piriformis muscle in a long time. Afterwards she showed me a couple of stretches to help alleviate some of the tightness and I was on my way.
A few months back I actually noticed that I had some tightness and pain in my piriformis muscle (left one) but didn't really give it too much thought because it never bothered me while I was running. Rolling over at night, leading with that leg, OUCH! Certain yoga across the body stretches, OUCH!
I did some research on the piriformis and realized that **shocker** when it's tight, it can pull the hip in the wrong direction and can cause knee issues. Hmmm.... perhaps I should've given it a bit more thought when it hurt while NOT running. One of the primary causes is over striding.
Next I took to looking at some race pictures. It's very clear that when I'm tired/hating life while running my form starts to s-u-c-k. I start to rest on my back side and have my legs do all the work. The over striding evidence is very clear in most every race finishing picture when I'm tired, but still trying to do some work (see above A-D).
Another interesting factor is that it is almost impossible to not heel strike when you're over striding (hello knee and IT band issues!). Back in high school when I would've considered myself a "runner," I only raced 13-27 seconds at a time so you don't think about form. You just ran...hard.
Since realizing this, I've made a very conscious effort to work on my form, particularly on my easy paced runs, because the form seems to be worse the slower I run. My knee is almost to the point where I can ditch my knee strap, and I have had zero hip pain and only a little IT band pain. Turns out the treadmill really brings out the over-striding in me... oops!
And clearly I wrote this blog post before I ran a 13.1 mile training run and failed to stretch after. Uh... oops. I took a rest day on Monday and did some hip opening yoga which got rid of the creakiness. Phew. Since the heat index was 112* I wasn't too sad I had to put off my run. Eew.