Two observations about running.
- Running is one of the most enjoyable sports that you can take up. I could wax poetical for hours at this point but will save you the pain.
- Runners get injured. Rates as high as 79% have been reported with injuries such as patellofemoral pain, illiotibial band pain, shin splints etc. This is one of the reasons (several years ago), that I introduced our Runners Leg Assessment. You can read more about the assessment here.
One of the things you can look at to reduce injury is to try to shorten your stride when running. Let’s work through the logic of this.
While running you will, for a split second be completely airborne. This airborne moment ends quite dramatically with your leading foot hitting the ground and placing a deceleration stress through the foot and leg. Your shoe, heel pad, foot & leg bones, menisci, cartilage, muscles and intervertebral discs are all involved in the absorption of a shock wave that goes through the body. “Wow”, you say in horror, “I am going to take up swimming as my main source of exercise!”. Interestingly enough, your bones need those forces to go through them. People who only swim often suffer from lower bone density that makes them more prone to fractures. So, swim by all means, but you should throw in a bit of running too. Ever seen Bruce Fordyce in a cast? No. Point proven. Actually, I don’t have a clue as to whether or not he has ever broken a bone.
Research has shown that there are two force peaks as you run. The technical term for this is GRF or Ground Reaction Force. The one peak, (Think of your scale’s needle spinning forward) is when your foot initially strikes the ground. The needle goes up big time at this point. The second peak comes as your body’s mass moves over your foot. By shortening your stride you can reduce these forces.
The reduction of these two forces should bring rates of injury down. Things like Plantar Fasciitis, Runners knee (Patellofemoral pain syndrome), ITB etc.
Am I suggesting that you should try and run on your forefoot? No, not at all.
Switching to a forefoot strike is in my mind a recipe for disaster. Your triceps surae, fancy talk for your calf muscles, will take strain as they attempt to both slow your descent down and then contract in order to push you off again. Both your Achilles tendon and calf muscles run the risk of serious injury.
It is true that shortening your stride will require you to up your cadence in order to maintain your running speed. The fear with that is, that increased foot strikes per km will increase your risk of injury. However, a number of studies done in this regard prove that this is not the case. If you have a bit of time on your hands give this a click – jbiomech article.
The take-home point from a number of studies is this – the load placed on your legs from overstriding is far more detrimental than landing lightly and more often.
Does this blog imply that I should run in minimalist shoes?
Again, No. The minimalist shoe revolution has essentially come and gone. The amount of google search queries now has evened out to the same levels recorded in 2008, before the so called “Revolution” began. Barefoot/minimalist running brought about an increase of metatarsal stress fractures and bone marrow edema. There is now a swing to so called maximalist shoes. These are heavy shoes with a massively thick sole. (We wait for a brand new injury profile to hit).
Do warnings about over striding apply to walkers too?
Yes. Research was carried out on stride length using male and female military recruits. Shorter woman marching in pace with taller counterparts had a greater incidence of pubic ramus stress fractures. The study recommended a reduction in stride length and suggested that shorter recruits march out in front and thus be allowed to set the pace, so as not to be forced into over striding. One can only imagine how many injuries these North Korean woman soldiers have.
How on earth do I change my running style?
- Read this article.
- Make sure that you do not swing your leg forward. The moment your leg acts as a pendulum you are in trouble.
- Look out for your shadow. It will give you an idea as to how you are landing.
- Make sure that your hip flexors are flexible.
- You can drink Johnnie Walker in moderation, but don’t mimic his walking style. Johnnie is an over strider.
- If you still do not come right, give me a call. Our Runners Leg Assessment should help trace where your injury is coming from. We have also seen great results from our massage program.