Good runners have flat feet, bowed legs, pigeon toes


February 16, 1993|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer/United Feature Syndicate

A high school football coach can watch students as they walk down the school's corridors and tell which children have the ability to run fast. Those with flat feet, bowed legs and pigeon toes have a built-in advantage.

When you run, you land on the outside bottom part of your foot and naturally roll inward. The vast majority of people who are told they have flat feet really have normal arches. But they usually roll inward far more than normal. Their feet only appear to be flat because their arches roll inward so far you can't see their soles touching the ground.

This extra rolling inward causes their "flat" feet to hit the ground with great force, driving them forward with greater force.

The strongest feet in the world point inward because having strong calf muscles forces your toes inward. When you run with your toes pointed slightly inward, your feet are closer together and there is no backward slippage of your heel. On the other hand, running with your toes pointed outward forces your heel to slipforward as you raise up on your toes before your foot leaves the ground.

People with bowed legs have knees that whip inward as they step off from one foot to the other. This inward motion of the knees drives them forward and helps them run faster.

So, good sprinters and halfbacks usually have flat feet, bowed legs and pigeon toes.

* Q: I work really hard to keep my blood cholesterol level under control. But a recent newspaper article said that low cholesterol can cause depression. Should I be concerned that lowering my cholesterol will make me feel bad?

A: The headline on the newspaper article you read says a study published in the British medical journal, Lancet, shows having low cholesterol causes depression. That's not what the study showed.

Dr. Lawrence Palinkas, of the University of California at San Diego, conducted a study showing that men over the age of 70 who have very low blood cholesterol levels are three times more likely to suffer from depression. That does not mean having low cholesterol causes depression. It tells us that being depressed is associated with low cholesterol, not that the low cholesterol level causes the depression.

There is a big difference between cause and effect.

Depressed people eat less. Reducing your food intake lowers cholesterol. The study also may show that being sick causes you to eat less and being sick causes depression. Either way, being depressed or sick can lower cholesterol. But having low cholesterol does not make you depressed or sick.

Dr. Palinkas also found an association between low cholesterol and depression only in men under 70. There was no association whatever found between depression and low cholesterol in women or men under 70. Men under 70 -- with or without low cholesterol -- are more likely to be depressed or sick than women or younger men.

Q: My company recently moved into office space in a renovated old building. Since that day, most of us have complained of headaches and other physical problems that go away when we leave the office at the end of the day. Any ideas?

A: You probably should check with your doctor to rule out any physical problem, but the fact that you are not alone in your symptoms suggests an environmental problem. Headaches, dizziness, tiredness or the inability to concentrate may be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

You should call in a heating and air conditioning specialist to measure the carbon monoxide levels in your office building. If carbon monoxide levels are high, you may need to clean the building's chimneys or flues. Cigarette smoke also may be the culprit. Are there a lot of smokers in the building? You and your co-workers may be affected by their bad habit.

Also check the ducts from the furnace or hot water heater. Do they have small holes, or do they travel horizontally for more than a few feet? These factors can allow carbon monoxide to leak or accumulate.

Always correct the cause of high carbon monoxide levels. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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