Dr. Todd Flitton’s training in podiatry began at age 14. That’s when he took up running as a hobby.
Second semester began with his first marathon at about age 20.
Today, after dozens of marathons and even more cycling competitions, he’s probably earned his degree in how feet function.
Well, actually, he has.
As a doctor of podiatric medicine at Tanner Clinic in Kaysville — and a runner for life — Dr. Flitton’s foot-healing skills go far beyond what he learned in medical school.
“There’s a lot I’ve learned from running 37 marathons and biking thousands of miles that you can’t learn unless you experience it,” says Dr. Flitton.
And at the base of it all is the complicated, humble foot. “It’s fascinating,” he says “to see how something so relatively small, given the size of our body, takes a beating.”
Dr. Flitton, who performs many foot-related surgical procedures, treats all types of patients for all types of conditions and trauma. But he does share that affinity with runners and other athletes.
Often, the issue is tendinitis, he says. Also common among runners are knee problems and plantar fasciitis that results from the repetitive pounding day after day.
Consider a runner who’s experiencing foot pain. Dr. Flitton can analyze the runner’s stance and stride and recommend a remedy. Often that remedy is changing the foot-to-ground contact surface — by getting a new type of shoe, for instance, or forming an orthotic, a custom arch support that fits in a shoe.
It the same with cyclists. “Cyclists come in and say, ‘The outside of my foot gives me grief when I’m on the bike at this particular point.’ I assess their bike and say, ‘OK, move your foot forward on the clip’ or ‘Move your saddle back just a little bit, and ‘Let’s do this on the inside of your shoe.’ Problem solved.”
Dr. Flitton on treating runners: A Q&A
Dr. Flitton offers an abundance of great information for runners and other athletes. He addresses some topics in the following Q&A:
How are you able to analyze foot structure in the exam room?
Usually all I need to do is have them walk or have them stand. If running is their problem, I look at their shoe wear pattern on their running shoes. I work with a physical therapist who has a gait analysis system, where they are videoed running, and then we can analyze the gait.
Is gait natural? Can you change it?
Sometimes, the gait changes because of an injury — your body will try to compensate, and that may or may not be good. We need to get them back to the more efficient gait. Sometimes the gait in and of itself is causing the injury, and by changing the gait slightly or changing the way the foot hits the ground — with shoe gear or orthotics — you can change the gait and then the effects of the injury.
Do runners come to you because they have a problem with pain or because they hear they can improve their performance?
No, most runners come in here because they have a problem that is limiting them from running. Because, unfortunately, we runners would really rather not go see a doctor, because unless the doctor is a runner or understands running, frequently the answer is “stop running,” which is the last thing that a runner wants to hear.
“Stop running” is not a solution for someone who’s addicted to running, right? So my goal is: Keep them running. I may have to limit a bit or change some things, but overall, keep them running.
How important is it to get a sports-specific type of shoe?
Absolutely key. One shoe doesn’t work for everybody. It depends on several factors: the type of foot structure you have, the type of running you’re involved in, the distances you do. My daughter- in-law talked to me about pain on the outside of her foot as she did aerobics. Unfortunately, she was doing step aerobics in her running shoes. Running shoes are built for straight-ahead motion — they’re not built for side- to-side. Someone who’s doing aerobics, kickboxing, tennis, racquetball or basketball, which are side-to-side and stop-go, should not be in a running shoe.
I’m frequently asked to give patients the brand name of a shoe I recommend. That’s a difficult task. I can tell them what works for me over 40 years of running. But I can’t tell them what’s going to work for them. We have to assess and then analyze the type of shoe they need; then they can go try on multiple brands in that category of shoe.