Dragging your tongue ? When the tongue of your shoe keeps getting pulled to the side. Do you know what it means ? It means plenty, if you are sharp.
By: Dr. Shawn Allen
This one pisses off most people it happens to. Why does it typically happen only on one side, on one shoe ? Look at the photo case above. Look closely to the left foot, the tongue of the shoe is pulled laterally compared to the right, or shall I say, dragged.
This is a fairly common phenomenon, and there is a reason for it, several actually. So, no, you do not need to staple the tongue to the shoe upper, or tighten your shoe laces, or stitch the tongue to the medial shoe upper. You need to stop externally spinning your foot in your darn shoe. What ?!
Yes, you very well may be avoiding normal internal rotation progression of the pelvis over the fixated limb. Loss of internal hip rotation is often a common finding clinically. As one passes the swing leg forward, the forward progressing pelvis eventually meets this loss of internal rotation over the fixated leg and femoral head. The swing leg none the less progresses further forward to get to its’ heel strike and the stance phase leg has to externally spin over the ground (I like to give the analogy of putting out a cigarette butt on the ground or squishing a bug (PETA don’t come after me)). This is called an Abductory or Adductory twist (good video demo here) depending on whether your reference point is the forefoot or rear foot. Regardless, the heel is spinning inward, the forefoot is relatively spinning outward. This spin of the foot inside the shoe (this happens minutely just before the shoe spins on the ground) and pulls the tongue laterally with it.
This problem can also come from, and often does, a premature heel rise from things like a:
loss of ankle rocker
lack of hip extension
hallux rigidus / limitus or even a painful big toe
There are even several other causes I will not list here today, I could have you waste your whole day on the list and the mental gymnastics of things to consider. Basically, anything that impairs the stance phase mechanics creating a premature heel rise or failure of completing internal hip rotation can cause an Abd/Adductor twist of the foot/heel and drag the tongue laterally. Sure, there are others, but the purpose of my blog post here today was to explain a neat little biomechanical phenomenon that has huge clinical insight if you know what it means. You cannot fix this problem if you do not do a physical exam, understand clean and faulty gait biomechanics, and maybe can even find small objects in a dark room. What I mean is it takes some educated exploration and a curiosity to want to fix things.
There are clues often right in front of you, all you have to do is pay attention and sometimes ask a simple question.
“Mr. Jones, when you stick out your tongue, does it drag laterally ?”
Ok, maybe not that exact question. But, when I see a loss of internal rotation or terminal hip extension in a runner, and when I have time to explain things deeply with a openly receiving client, I might start the conversation with that fun question and then explain what I really meant was the tongue of the shoe on that affected side.
You can’t swallow bandaids to fix things, as much as you wish it was that easy. Sure, you can avoid all of this fun by buying a shoe that has the tongue of the shoe sewn to the medial upper of the shoe, but then you wouldn’t have to fix anything. Where would you “get your fun on” then ? Be brave, go all in, fix the problem dammit.
These are the things that keep me up at night. Welcome to my nightmares.