How is your running style?

So what is it that makes some people appear to run so effortlessly? Why do some runners get injured and not others? It’s funny that so much time is spent as a child in being taught how to walk, but it’s just assumed that running is learnt instinctively. If you’ve been taking note of the many runners (and styles) around you, it’s quite clear that there are a number of technique variations.

As it’s impossible to individualize this article for every person’s running style, I’m going to talk about the common biomechanical/running efficiency mistakes.  And when I say common, I really do refer to the majority of runners.

For those critics who say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks – we know this is not true, and studies have shown that with a bit of discipline and patience, anyone can change their running technique for the better.

Mistake #1 Over striding.

Studies suggest 80% of runners over stride and hit more onto their heels, ie the heel hitting first, with the foot being out in front of you.  This not only lends itself to higher incidences of injury, but requires a negative or decelerating force for every step. This meaning MORE WORK and LOAD for your joints, tendons and muscles.  This is the very typical antelope-bounding look that can be seen around the place.

Correction #1:  Shorten and speed up your stride.  Try for a quicker/higher frequency but shorter stride, landing more on your mid-foot.  Your lead foot should be landing underneath your hips and shoulders and not in front of them.   You might have heard coaches saying run more on your toes and speed up the frequency.  Its not that you should be running on your toes (unless doing sprint running) but this encourages the athlete to focus on moving initial foot contact forward from heel striking.

Mistake #2 Plodder:

Runners often have their foot planted on the ground for far too long as they move over the top of it.

Correction #2 Instead, reduce the amount of time each foot is on the ground. While you run, think about pulling your leg backward just as your foot makes contact with the ground.   Imagine an arc that starts underneath you and you’re almost flicking up with your heels towards your bottom.  Similar to those old football drills that had your warm up with kicking your heels back to your bum and landing on your toes.  Obviously not that exaggerated unless you want to amuse everyone around you and finish up with some mighty sore hamstrings.

Mistake #3: Bouncing like a rabbit.

Yes, it’s quite obvious.  Limit the amount of bounce and up-down movement.  The more energy that is used going up and down the less is conserved for going forward.

Correction#3: Imagine a low ceiling approx 5cm above your head.  Keep your gait smooth and fluid.

It is likely that the first few times that you alter your techniques you will be more sore in your calves and hamstrings (they will adapt), but be assured it is worth persisting with these changes as they are some golden keys to improving your performance and increasing your efficiency.  There are plenty of drills that can help you, just search the net.

Well for all those joining into marathon events, best of luck.  I hope you’ve had an enjoyable and injury free lead up.  Keep running.  See you out there.