Recurring iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) meant Youtuber, blogger and fitness model, Flora Beverley – aka Food Fitness Flora – struggled to run 5k pain free.
She explains how she’s been using NURVV Run to adapt her running technique and keep an eye on injury triggers, to complete two 50km ultramarathons injury free.
When you become a runner, injuries are rarely the first thing you think of that’ll derail your progress. Lack of motivation, lack of time or the wrong kit, perhaps, but you rarely go into running with the expectation of getting injured.
However, with around 50% of regular runners getting injured each year, injuries might just be the limiting factor to your progress, above and beyond all the usual excuses. This was my experience, too.
‘As soon as I made progress I’d get injured’
When I first started running, I was only doing it a couple of times a month, alongside various other sports, so lack of fitness was more my problem than anything else. Yet (and this is something I think a lot of runners will recognise), as soon as I started making progress, really started getting better in leaps and bounds (quite literally), I got injured.
Since I had always been told that running gives you bad knees (thanks mum), when one knee started flaring up after sessions, I thought little of it. It wasn’t until a long run was forced to end thanks to the inability to bend or straighten said knee that I had to admit there was a problem beyond just ‘bad knees’.
I went to see my university physiotherapist, invariably hoping for a quick fix so I could get on with training. So began my struggle with IT Band Syndrome (ITBS), which would plague me over the next six years. My physio was completely useless, at least in my stubborn opinion at the time, telling me to ‘stop running’ if running was what caused the pain. It’s hard to fault his logic, but obviously (as most runners will know), simply giving up the one thing that keeps you sane, grounded and happy is not an option.
So I continued training though the pain, waiting after each flare up until it had settled sufficiently before aggravating the injury yet again. This was hindered even more by my coach of the time telling me ‘ITBS will never cause permanent damage, so running through it won’t be a problem’. Six years might not be permanent, but it’s certainly long enough!
‘Giving up running wasn’t an option’
It wasn’t until I got a proper job that I was able to afford to see another physio who was a triathlete and thus capable of understanding that ‘just give up’ wasn’t an option. It was at this point that I realised there was another way of managing my injury. After some analysis on the treadmill of my running style, it transpired that I just really didn’t know how to run.
As an aside, I find it interesting and potentially problematic that when you learn any sport at school, you’re taught how to do it correctly and efficiently. Lessons of how to hold a tennis racket, hit a cricket ball or kick a ball are commonplace, yet the laps around the playing field? You’re on your own.
For many, running seems to come naturally, but for most (myself included), it takes a bit of practise. Many parents put a lot of time and money into their children’s education, but when it comes to learning how to run, people just assume that it’ll be easy. Hence so many runners being injured each year.
‘Giving up running wasn’t an option’
My recovery from long-term ITBS involved aggressive rehab – lots of strengthening my posterior chain, which, despite my ability to squat really heavy, was super weak – and retraining myself how to run properly.
I needed to increase my cadence (the number of times your feet hit the ground each minute as you run). I also needed to adapt my footstrike (the part of the foot which hits the ground first) so I was heelstriking less – not something you want to do quickly. And finally, I needed to run with my feet more under my hips, rather than the ‘catwalk’ style running I’d been doing previously.
The first half of this was done with the assistance of my physio, but after a while I was on my own. Treadmill recordings and specialist advice are great when you’re injured, but quickly become unaffordable and not always transferrable to real-world runs.
‘Finding my cadence dropped when I tired helped to explain flare ups’
I first discovered NURVV RUN when they were Beta testing during lockdown, and as a self-diagnosed gadget geek, was smitten immediately. The promise of feedback for every one of my runs on all the things I needed to improve (primarily cadence and pronation) was impossible to turn down, so when they offered to let me try out the product, I jumped at the chance.
Data nerdiness aside, the information provided by the insoles and trackers was genuinely useful for me. Finding that my cadence dropped when I got tired helped to explain why niggles flared up on runs where I was exhausted (no matter the length), and knowing I was wearing the trackers helped to ensure I was keeping up proper form, even on my recovery runs.
‘I’ve been able to keep an eye on my injury triggers’
Over the past 18 months (about half of which I’ve been using NURVV), my ITBS has not returned as anything more than a minor niggle (of which I’m hyper-aware, but no longer worried). Previously I couldn’t run 5km without feeling pain, but recently ran two 50km ultramarathons within a month of each other with not even a twinge (at least not in my IT bands!)
In the last year. It’s also been great to visually see my heel-strike change to a comfortable mid-foot strike – something of which I was aware, but had no quantifiable way of measuring.
With NURVV insoles I’ve been able to keep an eye on my injury triggers, and feel confident that I’ll be able to attribute future niggles to specific things with the amount of data they provide. This will hopefully mean fewer physio visits, but also the ability to finally progress injury free! And isn’t that every runner’s dream?