Heel Whip Treatment Downtown Toronto Podiatrist and Physiotherapist
Do you experience your ankles hitting each other as you run? If so, you may be experiencing a heel whip, which can manifest as shinsplints, plantar fasiopathy, metatarsalgia and other foot injuries! Being assessed by a podiatrist or physiotherapist near you can help determine if custom foot orthotics along with strengthening and stretching, can help. A Heel whip is a form of gait, stemming from weaknesses or blocks in the kinetic chain. When running, little weaknesses can cause a ripple effect, soon leading to injuries of the foot and lower extremity. If one is taking 160-180 stride per minute, that can add up to load on the foot run after run.
If you ever notice your foot does a slap when your foot makes ground contact, when running or walking, a heel whip may be what you are experiencing. Also, a heel whip can cause excessive load on the foot leading to a slew of foot related issues like, plantar fasciopathy, metatarsalgia and tendinosis in the foot. If a heel whip cause excessive collapsing forces on the foot, then orthotics can help mitigate the pain associated with a heel whip while you work to restore your imbalances.
What Is a Heel Whip
A heel whip is defined as a medial (inwards) or lateral (outwards) deviation of the foot during the initial stage of swing phase( when your heel lifts off the ground to land again). This is a compensatory gait pattern, which does require more energy. Therefore, if one can correct these patterns, one may become a more efficient runner. When examining a walker or runner from behind, you may see the foot excessively turned inwards or outwards. In order to bring the foot to ground contact, the ankle has to do a circle like whip to move forwards.
What Causes a Heel Whip
Whips are caused by not enough rotation of the femur. If the hip and thigh cannot undergo enough external or internal rotation, the foot makes up for that difference.
Heel Whips can be defined as lateral or medial. What does that mean? It means if the heel turns out and the toes point in at toe off, that is a lateral heel whip. A Medial heel whip is when the heel moves inwards and the toes point outwards at toe off.
A Medial heel whip is when the heel rises at the end of the stance phase and the foot goes into a rapid abduction. It occurs when there is excessive pronation accompanied by femoral internal rotation and tibial external rotation. This can also happen due to not enough range of motion at the ankle or big toe. In other words, the foot goes “duck footed” and stays that way through the running cycle. From behind the heel is turned inwards and the foot is pointed outwards.
If there is not enough internal hip rotation, the foot can also under go a whip in order for proper toe off. Toe off requires the hip/ thighs to internally rotate to get enough extension. If not, injuries can arise.
How Custom Foot Orthotics Help a Heel Whip
Custom Foot Orthotics are designed to slow the abnormal motions of the foot and alleviate excessive pathology forming pronation. Remember pronation is normal and necessary, but too much of it can cause injuries to the foot. Orthotics are a great way to help alleviate pain in the management of treating hip and ankle imbalances when correcting this gait pattern.
Causes of a Heel Whip
- Lack of Big Toe Range of Motion
- Lack of Ankle Range of Motion
- Weak tib anterior and extensor toe muscles
- Limited/impaired hip extension
- Weak glutes, medius and maximus (which minimizes hip extension range and abduction).
- Excessive pronation
- Impaired foot tripod mechanics/ foot strength
- Reduced Hip mobility and strength of internal or external hip rotators
How to Fix A Heel Whip
First would be to determine where your individual weakness and range of motion deficits are. This can be done by doing a biomechanical exam or muscle function test. At InStride, we do that, by a certified physiotherapist or chiropodist.
Based on your individual needs you should work on specific strengthening and mobility exercises. Keep in mind that strength does take time to accomplish anywhere from 4-8 weeks, so being patient is part of it. That is where orthotics can help keep you moving, doing what you love, while reducing symptoms of a heel whip.
We should run or walk by pushing through the ball of our first ray and our hip need to have enough strength and mobility to allow that to happen. If not the foot will be apropulsive and foot injuries can arise. So obtaining proper hip mobility, strength and heel raises, pushing from the ball of the first ray are important.
If you see someone running which looks like duck footed or intoed and hear them slapping as they run, you now know it could be a heel whip and what could be going on.
You may take a look at more information on our website.
Photos of Heel Whips