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Open Mic Friday: Welcome Podiatrist Dr. Chin

Posted Aug 14 2008 11:10pm


After a week of foot stories and advice at Runners' Lounge, we're wrapping up with professional foot expertise.

We are pleased to introduce you to Dr. Michael Chin, a physician and surgeon of the foot and ankle. Dr. Chin has a passion for treating the motivated and health-conscious runner. Because of his vision and passion, he has founded The Running Institute in Chicago. Using a team approach to treating patients, he prides The Running Institute in providing a unique team approach to preventative, rehabilitative, and surgical foot care.

We've thrown some interesting questions at Dr. Chin, and we think there's a lot to learn about feet from the running doc's experience.

Welcome to Runners' Lounge, Dr. Chin!

Dr_michael_chin_3 What is the biggest mistake runners make regarding their feet?

Runners are athletes who often neglect the most important part of the body when it comes to running...their feet. It is what gets you from point A to point B. The biggest mistake is that runners often let pain get so bad and by that time it is too late. Many times, if the problem is identified by a podiatrist, it could be remedied while the runner is cross training or still actively training.

What type of foot injuries and problems do you most commonly see among runners?

The most common injuries are plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, stress fractures of the foot, and shin splints.

What non-running lifestyle practices interfere with healthy feet?

Interestingly enough, natural walking seems to interfere with running. Our whole ambulatory life, we were told to walk heel to toe, and this gait form is actually unnatural for running. It produces incredible pressure into a very small area of the foot. In my female patients, high-heel wearing and flip flop use, are notorious offenders for running injuries. By virtue of the pitch of the foot and effects on the calf musclulature, it creates an increased tension on the Achilles and the arch of the foot.

We know the feet impact many other areas of our muscular, skeletal health. What other injuries or conditions do runners (or your patients) experience as a result of their feet?

Pronation is one of major forces on the foot. It is a shock absorber, but when it is in excess, it can cause a chain reaction that moves up the leg to the spine. Knee injuries such as patellofemoral syndrome, IT Band syndrome, and medial collateral knee pain can be traced to over-pronation. Hip bursitis and SI joint can also be correlative to pronation, but we also find that these injuries also involve poor core control and strength. It is a two way street.

What type of exercises might actually advance a runner’s capability?

Pilates and yoga are very good exercises to promote stretching and core strengthening. I work closely with physical therapists and running coaches and they all have loads of exercises for specific injuries. I have also instituted with many of my runners the Chi Running technique. I find that modification of a runner's form with the Chi technique has been instrumental in reducing injury. If you closely watch the elite runners, you'll see their form is very close to what the Chi technique promotes.

What’s the impact of extra weight on the feet?

When running, we are impacting the ground with 4-5 times our body weight. So just think, an increase in BMI and center of gravity greatly impacts the feet. I use the analogy of carrying a 20 lb bag of rice on your back all day long and then run. How would you feel?

What’s the most interesting or amazing running feet related story you’ve experienced?

Three years ago, I had a marathoner who was told that she her running career was over due to a severe ankle injury sustained earlier that year. She had come to me frazzled and after further review of her case, we came up with a game plan and she opted for surgical repair of the right ankle. She recovered from the initial course well and began therapy 4 week postoperatively. She was able to perform light push off activities at 2.5 months. By 4 months she was running short distances in the pool and treadmill. Last year, I saw her at the Chicago Marathon and she told me that she completed NY marathon and qualified for Boston. It was perseverance and dedication that got her there and a team approach to solve the problem. It was my favorite moment ever.

Thank you, Dr. Chin, for treating runners and for sharing some of your views and experiences with Runners' Lounge!

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