Friend of runners in Denver, biomechanics specialist Adriano Rosa holds 5 patents for insoles and shoes, owns Gravitus Insoles, and was good enough to share his hints for better performance.
I never dreamed my path would take me into a field where I’d be working with feet – but that became my field of study once I understood the dramatic influence that feet have over the rest of the body. In this article I address running injuries through my training as a biomechanics specialist, nutrition coach and exercise physiologist.
Early in my career, I was told by health professionals that “everyone should be wearing hard custom orthotics, podiatrists should be the only ones prescribing orthotics (costing hundreds of dollars), going barefoot was bad for our feet and that most foot and ankle issues could be addressed with surgery, medication and rest”. Although I respect the opinions of most health professionals, I questioned this logic and started down my own path of research.
While in college, I was a die-hard triathlete training 20 plus hours a week. I was racing around the world, pushing my body to its limits and was plagued with chronic injuries. Surgeries and meds were encouraged, and well-intentioned advice was given to stop training and racing. But I wasn’t buying it, there had to be other options. This curiosity sent me on a decade long search throughout the country, seeking answers from leading health professionals in biomechanics, coaching, nutrition and sports rehab. My findings revealed that my injuries were not all related to training intensity and volume.
After numerous video gait analysis, hands-on evaluations, workshops and endless hours of research – I discovered that I had a structural misalignment of my lower extremities and I was wearing the wrong running shoes. I also needed to incorporate barefoot running and conditioning, which was a huge missing piece of the puzzle. I met with a sports nutritionist that helped me understand the importance of clean eating (eliminating simple sugars, gluten and dairy from my diet). After only three weeks of sports-specific functional rehab, a new nutritional plan, new stable-neutral running shoes, and a very basic pair of orthotics to correct my leg length discrepancy and late pronation – I was finally training and racing pain-free, even when I built up to 50 miles a week. And it paid off – enough to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii (my dream race) and 3 other world championships under USAT team USA.
Here are my top five ways to improve your performance:
1. Rethink your shoes: 60% of my clients are wearing the wrong shoes.
With 100’s of models to choose from, finding the right footwear can be confusing. Pronation, supination, neutral, cushion, stability, motion control, zero drop– how do you choose? Most shoe stores do a fantastic job of selling shoes that feel good in the store, but after a few long runs the aches and pains start coming back. Why is this?
It is common for athletes to have two different feet, causing the body to be improperly aligned and become aggravated. Excessive cushion will worsen the imbalances by exaggerating pronation and supination. Too little cushion can add stress to the foot and even lead to stress fractures. Having a qualified biomechanics specialist give you shoe recommendations will always provide the best outcomes.
If you are not suffering from any injuries and are eager to hit the shoe store – I will recommend shoes that are much like your natural foot shape – rounded heels, a narrow rearfoot and wide toe boxes so your toes can flex, grip and expand. Stable neutral shoes with full contact outer soles are usually a great place to start with single density EVA throughout with semi-firm midsole, 8mm or less of toe drop for road and 4mm or less for trails. If you are still experiencing problems, a properly fitted orthotic, such as the ones provided by Gravitus Performance Insoles, might be your answer.
2. Listen to your body and address chronic injuries
Most running injuries are a result of footwear, but we also need to include bad running form, deconditioning and overtraining. The most common injuries I see in my practice are planter fasciitis, knee pain, IT Band, shin pain and achilles tendinitis.
I address most of these injuries with gait re-education, biomechanical re-alignment using a basic pair of insoles with a shoe recommendation. There are many schools of thought about gait but I like to keep it simple – don’t overstride, land on your mid foot not on your heels, and keep your gait revolutions around 90 strides or higher per minute. I will also include functional rehabilitation and healing nutrition if think it will be beneficial. Taking well-needed rest days and eliminating foods that cause inflammation (dairy, refined sugars and foods heavy in gluten) will also speed up the healing process.
3. When it comes to training, think “quality over quantity”
Are you tired all of the time? Plagued with injuries that won’t heal? Feeling overwhelmed and stressed when the next workout rolls around? As an athlete myself, I understand the drive and pressure to reach a certain goal. But many of us are so focused on the end result that we forget to pay attention to our bodies.
For all types of training, and especially for marathons and longer – it is important to incorporate ramp up cycles of 7-14 days with a recovery day or two after the cycle. Your recovery day can still be active with one or two days of cross training. It needs to be different than running – such as a light swim, bike or yoga.
Another way to go the distance and reduce the stress on your body is to split long runs into 2 sessions – for a 20-mile run, try 10 in the morning and another 10 later in the day. By breaking them into two sessions you reduce the urge to fall into bad running form and that also reduces the possibility of injury. And let’s not forget other important items like sleep, nutrition and listening to your body – that should be in every runner’s bible.
4. Cross train: Get off those legs!
We know you love to run. Sweating it out to your favorite tunes and the rush of endorphins can boost anyone’s day. But if you only run, you have a high probability of developing a muscle imbalance and overuse injuries.
To balance out your love of running, try mixing in two days of strength training. Not only will it give your body a break from the routine pounding, but will certainly help you PR in the next event.
For the last 30 years, I have been teaching the importance of weight training – especially if you are a runner over the age of 40 when muscle mass starts to decrease. Even as a triathlete, I still weight train 2-3 days per week and hike with a heavy backpack once a week to replace one of my runs.
5. Consider supplements
It’s simple – a balanced diet of protein, carbs, vegetables and fruits will take your body a long way. Avoiding refined sugars, glutens, dairy and vegetable oils are a great start to reducing inflammation and digestion issues. Many of us do not have the time or resources to grow our own organic plants, bake gluten free breads and raise farm animals – that’s where supplements come in.
This combo of daily supplements will assist in muscle recovery, stabilize your energy levels and protect your joints. Supplements to consider:
- High quality multivitamin – take twice a day to make sure you are getting the most micronutrients in your daily diet. We often eat depleted foods from monoculture farms that are low in nutrients.
- Turmeric-curcumin – a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant great for athletes pushing their bodies daily.
- Probiotics – keep your gut healthy and bowels moving
- Mineral complex – boost your immune system, increase bone strength and aid in muscle recovery
- Daily Fish oil – lubricate your joints the natural way
I hope hope to meet many of you at the races, or feel free to reach out to me.
About Adriano and Gravitus Performance:
Gravitus Performance Insoles originated in Michigan, where it continues to thrive among Physical Therapists using orthotics in their clinics. Knowing the business needed to expand, I brought the concept to Denver in May 2019 and have connected with several local Physical Therapy clinics who are excited to have Gravitus on board.
I met my wife (the woman of my dreams) in the process of helping an athlete to return to her activity. At the time, she was just a friend searching for help with her ankle pain. She was training for her first 1/2 IronMan and couldn’t run over three miles without pain (let alone 13.1 miles). She had tried several shoes and traditional methods with no result. She was told to stop running and that she would not be able to compete in triathlons because of the chronic issues in her ankle.
After talking with her and doing an initial evaluation, I immediately knew what the issue was with her ankles. I treated her, recommended new running shoes, prescribed an orthotic to help the imbalance – and the pain diminished significantly within days. Not only did she complete her 1/2-Ironman triathlon few weeks later, she then went on to compete at the national level the following year, raced on Team USA for the World’s Triathlon, and finished a full IronMan in 2017 – all ankle pain-free! Our relationship developed from there, and now we are happily married and living in our dream state of Colorado.
My focus has always been results and customer satisfaction with the model “do whatever it takes to get people back on track.” Because of my success with orthotic intervention, biomechanics research and five US patents in footwear and insoles, I started my own orthotic lab in the early 90’s which eventually grew to become Gravitus Performance Insoles. Now a successful small business competing with expensive, and often non-functional orthotic companies for a fraction of the cost and incredible results.
So, what makes Gravitus so unique and a step ahead of other orthotic labs? We specialize in identifying structural and biomechanical asymmetries between the right and left side. Most repetitive impact injuries come from excessive internal or external rotation of the lower extremity. At Gravitus we identify the imbalance and address it with biomechanical correction pads once determined if it is the rear foot, mid foot or forefoot. Gravitus Performance Insoles provides a comprehensive biomechanics analysis system where I look at lower back, hips, knees, feet and ankles – but I also ask about lifestyle, occupation, activities and nutritional needs.
Future plans for Gravitus will be continued growth in the physical therapy markets and workshops for runners and triathletes. I am currently working on an APP that will do the work I do as a consultant to improve diagnostics and efficiency in the clinical setting. Making “Gravitus ID” the most accurate and comprehensive evaluation system for orthotics ever designed.