It’s now been over two years since my spinal fusion and during that time I have put in endless hours of physical therapy, training and doing research about running after spine surgery and foot-drop. I discovered that most people never fully return to running or if they do it’s not at the same level they once did. I even read discouraging comments on forums telling the runner looking for help to “just give up”. Reading comments like that just motivated me even more to keep pushing through the rough stuff and to add new goals when things were getting easier. Competing in the Big Shoulders 5k swim gave me that racing fix I desperately needed, but being able to run a race was still a goal that I wanted to accomplish.
During my two-year follow-up checkup with Dr. Harms we looked at my latest X-ray, seeing that everything was continuing to heal although there was a possible crack in one of the screws but for now it was nothing to be concerned about.
We also discussed my progress on how the running was going. I told him my frustrations with the foot drop brace I was using and the problems it was causing and he suggested that I contact Omni prosthetics to see if they had a brace that would be more suited for serious running and be more comfortable for everyday wear.
I contacted them the same day and the following day I was fitted for a new carbon fiber brace from Europe called the Centri Dynamic Walker. My first impression was on how much lighter it was compared to the heavy brace I was using, and then they had me try a short run down the hallway. Within a couple of steps I realized this thing just might work.
Foot-Drop Brace Comparison:
(1)Polypropylene foot drop brace
Pros– Doesn’t let foot drop. Cons– Heavy,takes up space in shoe, causes blisters,foot atrophied due to lack of movement and definitely not for running.
(2) Alimed Freedom Adjustable Foot Drop Brace
Pros– Lightweight, inexpensive. Cons– Slips on leg during runs, caused blisters on ankle, toe-off unnatural, caused calf strain.
(3)Centri dynamic walk afo
Pros– Lightweight,provides powerful toe-off ,allows foot to move in all directions Cons– Expensive ($1000 plus),causes fit issues with running shoes, can occasionally rub on ankle and arch.
Fighting the urge to use it the following day for my run was tough, but they wanted me to get used to walking with it first before running. After going back to Omni for a couple of adjustments I gradually added more running and started to adapt to the more powerful stride the brace provided. It wasn’t perfect, but compared to the other options I had tried it was close.
In three weeks the Body n’ Sole New Year’s Eve run was happening, and I decided it was time to test out the brace. It had been several years since I had run three miles and what a better time to do it than New Year’s Eve. The excitement of finally running again took me out at a pace I wasn’t ready for and halfway into the run I was gasping for air and wondering how the hell I ever ran Marathons.
Backing off the pace I tried to relax and enjoy this first major step in my return to running. Now what?
The April 26th, 2014 Illinois Marathon would be the next test, but obviously I wouldn’t be ready for the Marathon distance. But there is a Marathon relay, which if I could get three other runners to join me would be a possibility.
Working at a running store made putting a relay team together rather easy and now I have to come out of winter hibernation to get through 6.7 miles. The last few months of training went from doing the Jack Daniels running program to something resembling a Polar Bears training plan.
With the help of my training partner Norman, my relay team and some warmer weather it’s going to happen.
To be continued ……….