Running is still a critical component of physical literacy, however it is generally not deliberately taught like swimming, skating, and catching skills. That's because humans are, for the most part, inherently good runners. We’re pretty amazing at it all on our own, actually. But with the incidence of recreational running injuries as high at 80%, I have a lot of runners who come to me for advice on their form, and what changes they can make in order to increase their mileage and decrease their pain.
For the majority of runners, the problem is not necessarily how they run, but rather how much. Pushing your body past its limits, either in distance or intensity, is going to give you an overuse injury --even with perfect form. In addition, your body has an amazing ability to adapt to the loads and stresses that you put it through, as long as you give it adequate time and rest to adapt to changes. It’s so amazing that even if you run like Phoebe Buffay from Friends, (please YouTube this immediately if you don’t understand the reference, it’s hilarious - link here) your body will naturally adapt to your unique running form. Nevertheless, beyond examining training load, and discovering muscle imbalances, running form is the third most important factor in addressing running-related injuries, especially if those injuries are consistently happening in one joint, or on one side of your body.
When I perform a Running Assessment with clients, it usually takes an hour. I discuss with you your past and current training loads, your past injuries, current complaints, and your goals. I will then perform some physical tests and hone in on your problem areas. Only then do I get you on the treadmill to examine your running form in slow motion from the back and the side. I take all of this information and if I notice room for improvement, I may make a few suggestions to tweak some aspects of yourform. Sometimes these suggestions don’t prove useful; and result in an undesirable outcome. They may feel awkward, uncomfortable, or even painful. So we try something different. Ultimately, we end up at a place that looks and feels good.
Ultimately, no matter what the running magazines say, there is no “bad” way to foot strike, and your body will adapt to your unique stride. Instead of foot strike, the distance your foot is from your body seems to be the most important factor in achieving good running form. You want to prevent over-striding, or kicking your feet out in front of your body when you land. In addition to slowing you down, you’re also putting a lot of stress through your knees, hips, and low back when you over-stride. Instead, think of landing with your feet underneath your body, with a slightly bent knee. Achieving this might actually increase your cadence (the number of times your feet hit the ground per minute) slightly. Increasing cadence, even just a little bit, can reduce your risk of knee injuries. It’s a win-win if you ask me.
*as a side note, just like there is no perfect form, there is no perfect cadence either. What works really well for one runner, may not work well for another.
Proper posture, relative foot strike, and minimizing vertical and lateral movement; the recipe for good running form.
Funny enough, these four concepts properly executed can still look very different in each person. That being said, the best advice I can give to any runner new or old is; stop taking cookie-cutter advice from your running community. This blog, included. So if you have been told that you look like Phoebe Buffay, but you have never had a running-related injury, don’t change a single thing. As with pretty much all things running, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if you do have soreness, recurring injuries, or simply want to get faster, you might want to ask yourself: “how’s my form?”
For more information or if you would like to learn more you can contact Laura Gfeller, PT at our Dartmouth location. To book an appointment call 902-404-3668 ext. 1 or book online.