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Technique in running is something that is often overlooked in the casual competitive runner, and in many cases can lead to the development of an overuse injury. In gait (running movement) patterns, maximising your efficiency during gait will prevent joint overloading and thus prevent the onset of load induced injury.
Common technique habits that can increase your risk of injury include overstriding, heavy heel striking and crossing the mid line of your body. Those might all seem slightly complicated to diagnose when heading out for your daily run.
Over a four part series, we will look at some common running technique mistakes and how they can affect you putting one foot in front of the other!
It is quite common in the running game to use certain terms to describe your running pattern and the impact you have with your technique. All over the internet you will find running blogs which implement different terms and try and guide you in the right direction, but we’re here to help you understand and use this information to become a better runner.
The actual impact from one foot meeting the ground, transferring through the foot, taking off, swinging though and contacting the ground again.
The distance of one stride, generally measured from initial contact point to initial contact point on the same leg.
In health terms, we use this term to describe your movement style. It encompasses both walking and running, both foot contact and flight time.
The stage in your gait where your foot is flat on the ground, and taking the full weight of your body. This time in your gait cycle is commonly where compensations can occur through your foot, knee or hip.
The propulsion phase where your foot leaves the ground.
The initial ground contact generally made by rearfoot and midfoot runners.
Commonly referred as “training load” it refers to the forces coming through the body.
Now you know the lingo, next week in Part 2 we will delve into Overstriding. Watch this space!
BLOG SERIES: Part 2 Overstriding
Technique in running is something that is often overlooked in the casual competitive runner, and in many cases can lead to the development of an overuse injury. In terms of gait (running movement) patterns, maximising your efficiency during gait will prevent joint overloading and thus prevent the onset of load induced injury. In this blog series, we have already gone through running lingo - this week we look at overstriding.
As the term indicates, overstriding is where our stride length (the distance between the same feet contacting the ground in one stride) is influencing our ground contact. If there is excessive stride length and our ground contact is occurring well out in front of our body, by contacting the ground in front of our body, our ability to hold the load changes as we are unable to recruit the knee and the hip to manage the load and notoriously the muscles below the knee must take the load.
This can cause overuse injuries such as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS-Shin Splints) as the anterior leg musculature overreacts to the load and can cause irritation to the tibia bone. Patella-femoral joint pain is also common with an over-strider not being able to utilise the upper leg complex to process the body weight load as it meets the ground reaction forces. Calf, achilles and hamstring injuries can all be related back to overstriding.
These conditions unfortunately are not quick fixes, and can take time to repair and rehabilitate.
So how do you know if you're overstriding? The best way is through video analysis. Whether that be through a directed video gait analysis with a trained professional, or getting a mate to take a video on their smart phone of you running along from the side. You may also know by symptoms of pain just below or behind the knee cap, anterior leg soreness or inflammation of the lower leg.
Treatment for overstriding involves including some gait retraining cues to decrease the impact of overstriding and look at greater efficiency, potentially soft tissue work depending on the health of your lower limb and occasionally orthotics to alter the mechanics. For something that can seem so miniscule, the reality of the situation is that it can cause chronic activity pain. By working through these difficulties we can get long term outcomes, which not only resolve your pain, but can keep you running for longer and help you hit your targets!
About the author
James Unkles is one of our Podiatrists here at Camberwell Sports & Spinal Medicine. A casual runner in his spare time, he understands the nature of the industry and how little imperfections can become big issues.
Rowlands, A., Eston, R., & Tilzey, C. (2001). Effect of stride length manipulation on symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage and the repeated bout effect. Journal of Sports Sciences, 19(5), 333-340.
Next week: Heavy heel striking. Stay tuned!
Part 3: Heavy Heel Striking
Are you wearing out of the rear of your runners much more quickly than the rest of your shoe? You may have a heavy heel strike in your running style. This is commonly paired with a very “loud” running style, where you can commonly hear the contact that you make with the ground. So take out your headphones, and listen to your style!
Heavy heel striking is not only unattractive to watch when observing gait, it is extremely taxing on the body. That large impact sends load through the posterior leg and can lead to longstanding conditions such as ankle instability, shin splints, muscular overload and even stress fractures. It even relates to the topic we covered in the last blog in this series - looking at how overstriding can affect your gait. If you are a chronic overstrider, you may also be contributing to your injury risk heavily loading on the rear-foot.
Research conducted at Curtin University in Perth looked at the relationship between “running quietly” and vertical ground reaction forces (how much load is impacting the body during ground contact). Their study found, particularly with male participants, their peak loading rates and forces were reduced when asked to “run quietly.” This important piece of research backs up many coaches and health professional’s beliefs that potentially altering a runner away from a heavy heel striking gait, can help to prevent further injury.
This is not to say that heel striking is a terrible gait characteristic. A large percentage of the population do run with a heel strike style gait, and can be seen in many endurance athletes across the world. What is important to remember is that any type of instability associated with the rear foot can largely effect how we manage the increased load of running through the lower limbs.
To assess the effect of this characteristic, having your running technique analysed by a running coach or health professional is the best way to prevent any injuries that may develop.
About the Author
James Unkles is a Podiatrist at CSSM, who enjoys running as part of a balanced lifestyle. His passion in biomechanical analysis will help you get the most out of your running.
Xuan Phan, Tiffany L. Grisbrook, Kevin Wernli, Sarah M. Stearne , Paul Davey & Leo Ng (2017) Running quietly reduces ground reaction force and vertical loading rate and alters foot strike technique, Journal of Sports Sciences, 35:16, 1636-1642, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2016.1227466
Here’s an exercise for you: head down to your local oval and use the boundary line and run directly along it. If you notice your feet crossing over the boundary line to the other side of your body, you are most likely crossing the midline of your body. This may be a result of muscle tightness/weakness across the pelvic and hip region or could be coming from your foot posture. Persistent crossing the midline in association with loading increases have shown to increase your chances of lower limb injury, and may require intervention.
Crossing the midline is also referred to having a “narrow base of gait” which identifies that rather than having your feet strike the ground in alignment with your lower limb, you become more ‘adducted’ and have both feet strike the ground closer towards, or cross over the midline of your body (an imaginary line from the top of your head, dissecting the body in to two). Overloaded foot structure from pronation can be made worse for lower limb function if you have a narrow base of gait, and can lead to increases in the average vertical rate of force in the body (Napier et al., 2015).
Intervention programs can involve stretch and strengthening, dynamic exercise prescription, gait retraining or even the use of orthotic devices to prevent you overloading from midline infringements.
Every runner is different. We all have different styles, strike patterns and muscular status. If you’re wanting to get the best out of your running to propel you to the next level, getting your technique analysed is the best way to get to the bottom of any issues and help your program for the future.
We offer a Running Gait Analysis’ at CSSM.
Napier C, Cochrane CK, Taunton JE, et al. Gait modifications to change lower extremity gait biomechanics in runners: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2015;49:1382-1388.