Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Are you a casual runner or marathoner living with unusual aches and pains? This might be a result of poor running form that can probably be corrected. The majority of our patients who are experiencing an ailment whether it be tendinitis at the hip, knee or ankle, or generalized, non-specific pain in those same joints, are heel strikers, over-pronators or forward runners.
Heel striking is a term used when the runner fully extends their knee in front of their body and lands directly on the calcaneus, or heel. This results in placing almost 3 times the amount of your body weight through your musculoskeletal system within 50 milliseconds at initial contact with the ground. Overpronation is a term describing the position of the foot at heel strike and mid-stance of gait in which the medial (inside) arch of the foot collapses to the ground in excess of normal pronation. This places increased stress over the anterior lower leg and increased eccentric stretch through the posterior tibialis tendon. Forward position is a term used to describe runners who present with poor alignment from head to toe due to leaning forward at the head and shoulders, as well as bending at the waist. This posture ultimately limits the effectiveness of the gluteals as a source of power and places increased stress on your spine.
What can you do about these faulty mechanics? A few tips below can help to improve your gait pattern while running and make you more effective and less vulnerable to injury all while enjoying the art of running.
First, to correct for heel striking, attempt to land on the midfoot or ball of your foot with the lead leg as opposed to your heel. This will disperse the load at initial impact to almost zero and therefore reduce stress to the lower extremity. Next, try to land on the outside of your feet at initial impact as well in order to reduce your chance of overpronation injuries. A good cue to have in mind to help with these two corrections is to try and run quietly and avoid “slapping” your feet on the ground when running. Last, to avoid a forward lean while running, stand up tall with your head and shoulders back while scanning the horizon with your eyes. This will naturally place your spine in a neutral position and allow your hips to be underneath you and act as your center of gravity.
As you implement these techniques into your running routine, keep in mind that a good rule of thumb is to only change your form for about 10% of your miles to allow your body time to adapt to the new stresses it will endure. And if you’re not sure whether these corrections apply to you, schedule a visit with one of our doctors to have a gait analysis performed to lead you in the right direction!
Dr. Dustin Szenderski DPT