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Friday, July 9, 2010

Running Biomechanics: General Principles

The way that you run is called your "running style" or "running gait". Your running gait pattern should be smooth without excessive motions (mechanically efficient). Having your running gait style evaluated by a sports podiatrist, physical therapist or trainer may be very helpful, especially in the following four instances:

  1. You have never run before and have no idea how to start.

  2. People who see you run say that you run different in some way (ie. limp, lean to one side, turn ankles in, etc).

  3. Running itself for you has always produced a variety of running-related problems.

  4. If you look at your shoe wear and shoe insole wear after 300 to 400 miles and find that the wear is very unequal between the two feet.
Here are 7 general principles that define a smooth, efficient running style. Some of these you can definitely learn yourself. They are:

  1. Lean forward slightly at the waist. The straighter you run, the more bouncing up and down you do, and the more excessive jarring on your legs and low back. This moves your center of mass slightly forward to the body, much less stress to the skeletal system.
  2. The length of your stride (measured from right heel contact to left heel contact) should be equal to or less than your height. It takes a friend and some trials to measure this of the sidewalk. Try to time right heel contact at one place and have your friend focus on where you land your left heel. A common error is to "overstride" as you try to run faster. Seventeen different running-related injuries are associated with this problem. As you attempt to run faster, focus more on faster leg speed (stride rate) than straight longer strides. You will have to move your hip muscles faster for sure.
  3. Your foot should contact the outside of the  heel or full-foot first (little toe side). There are some schools of thought that toe running may prove to be better, but I find the foot biomechanics harder to stabilize with toe runners and presently do not recommend it's use. However, if you are a natural toe runner, I would not try to change what comes natural to you.
  4. Don't slap or pound your feet along the path. Concentrate on slight gait changes that lessen the jarring. This problem may require better shock absorbing shoes or special inserts made to absorb shock.
  5. Relax your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and jaw. Relaxing the upper body promotes total relaxation and running efficiency.
  6. Carry your arms at a right angle (90 degrees) at the elbows. Make sure both arms are swinging equal (unequal arm swing could indicate a structural problem with your legs). Don't let your arms cross in front of your body or, at least, minimize this action. Running is a straight line progression movement, and side to side motions are counter productive. Relax your wrists, but carry your hands straight with your thumbs up.
  7. Take the "Talk Test". If you can talk while jogging, you are running at a comfortable speed.

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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.