Running Technique - 3 common running form problems

Today I’m going to discuss 3 common running technique problems that often exist.  Hopefully you’ll be a little familiar with the terms from another of my blogs

1) Foot placement at initial contact: Overstride - this is very common but the majority of the time easy to correct.  An overstride can be thought of as when the foot lands to far ahead of the hips and/or ahead of the knee at initial foot contact.  In an ideal world, for endurance runners you want to have your foot land close to the hips and pretty much under the knee at foot contact with the shin being vertical.  Contrary to popular belief, the foot does not have to land under the hips as only sprinters achieve this. Watch a slow motion video of elite endurance runners and you’ll see none of them make initial contact right under the hips.

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See in the above picture how the foot is ahead of the knee at contact

2) Foot transitioning: Poor transition from midfoot/forefoot to the heel - What happens most often here is that when the foot strikes the ground with its forefoot/midfoot region, the force absorption does not continue efficiently/enough to the heel or what may be easy to understand is, it doesnt get spread out enough through the foot during the stance phase of running.  With the forefoot/midfoot being in contact for most of the stance phase, the calf complex muscles absorb too much force repetitively, the result being ‘calf overload’. I’ll have runners say to me: BOTH of my calves always feel tight when running, no matter how much I stretch, massage or strengthen them they still feel tight.  Whilst a massage etc. will help, the answer is to make a subtle change to your technique. Why this happens can be for a number of reasons, the most common one being that the runner has read that forefoot/midfoot running is the best foot strike to have in running, I’m not discussing what is ‘best’ today, but what I will say is that when we make a change we have to make sure it’s the right change for us and that we execute it well. Elite runners strike the ground anywhere from forefoot to heel but its the timing in which they do it and how it is performed in relation to everything going on above it.

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At initial contact.  Notice the foot is plantar flexed (pointed downwards)

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This is the same runners foot at his mid stance. You can see, he has still not made contact with the whole foot and thus this is what creates the calf to be ‘overloaded’.  Sometimes the foot can be wholly in contact at this stage and still the weight is placed excessively through the forefoot.

3) Cadence (step rate): Low cadence at easy speeds - I’ll write a blog in itself on this at some point but let’s just start by saying that there is no optimal cadence (180 does not fit everyone!), we are all individual and each will have an optimal cadence that will be the same as some and different from others.  However, having said that, there are numbers that you DO NOT want to be hitting on the lower side if you want to run economically and prevent injuries. In my experience, if you’re hitting numbers at your easy running pace of 165/160 steps per minute and lower then you’re too low.   It causes longer foot contact times, increased force loading, potential overstriding, potential excessive vertical oscillation (bounce), increased horizontal braking plus more.  I’ve found many of these runners with low cadence are not satisfied in general with their running because they are struggling to improve times, running can feel hard for them and they see me because they keep on getting injured, even more so if they’ve had previous injuries.  

Check out this cool research article recently that made it into the daily mail regarding running technique.  I’ve scratched the surface with this blog as does the article below but it all helps in getting us running with better form.   But remember, what you think you’re doing when you make a technique change as a result of the many articles/blogs that feed you information (such as mine), may not be what you’re actually doing. Get an analysis with us at RUNFLOW!