Why Running Form Matters
Improving running form to aid performance and injury prevention
At Fitstuff Clinic & Run Lab we not only specialise in health care provision through osteopathy, physiotherapy, massage, and Pilates, but are also qualified to advise on running form and technique from our Guildford practice. Developing correct running technique throughout the body is key to preventing injuries, increasing efficiency and improving performance, and an example is to look at how we can refine movement of the upper leg.
Common issues with hip form
One of the most common problems we see when assessing technique is runners who land their foot too far in front of their centre of gravity – known as over-striding.
It’s all too easy to find yourself relying on the hip flexors and quads at the front of the leg, over-striding as a result, and preventing the glutes (buttocks) and hamstrings, from being fully utilised. However these powerful muscles are important, and key to good running form. Under using these muscles can lead to an imbalance and ultimately an increased risk of injury as the smaller, weaker muscles attempt to compensate.
What can we also see in clients who over-stride is a greater impact force caused by striking the ground with to a leg that is too straight. This increases the braking force upon impact, potentially resulting in ankle, knee and hip pain, while affecting the speed and efficiency of the runners stride.
However, by improving the movement at the hip to bring the glutes in to play more can help prevent injury from over-utilised muscles and poor technique, and ultimately create a more powerful and efficient stride. The goal of improving running form is to recognise each runner as an individual, realise the body’s natural potential, and spread the load properly across muscle groups in both the front and back of the leg.
What we’re looking for
Posteriorly the hip is surrounded by the large and powerful glute and hamstring muscles which are constructed to propel the body forward. Ideally these muscles should be actively engaged when propelling from the toe, rather than simply springing from the toe with the calf and ankle. For this to happen effectively we are looking for muscle flexibility combined with strength.
After toe-off, a perfect stride example would start with a high raised heel and positive forward hip drive. This would then be followed during the flight phase by the hamstrings and glutes becoming fully utilised to pick the heel up at the back. The stride length would be kept short whilst the upper body would remain stable with little lateral rotation.
From our Guildford practice we combine both the holistic approach of our sports clinic practitioners with our specialist knowledge of running technique to allow us to consider a number of running form exercises and drills to encourage a better movement pattern.
Form assessment and gait analysis
By first looking at the natural position of a runner’s hip we can assess the range of movement they currently have and discuss how it can be best developed. Assessment typically begins by looking at the strength of the glutes, and for any muscle imbalances to address with stretches and exercises.
Alongside this is a full gait analysis that looks not simply at the feet, but at the runner’s entire physiology. This is key for us to understand any other areas of improvement that might allow for the hip to be fully engaged. For example some runner’s might excessively rotate through the shoulders which is translated through the spine into the pelvis and prevents the complete range of the hip to be realised. Assessment involves video recording which allows for improvements in form to be tracked over regular months.
Changing running form is complex, and requires a re-learning of the leg’s range of motion. Yet understanding and developing the large muscle groups around the hip will help deliver performance benefits fot all kinds of runners, from beginners to experienced athletes.
With the information gleaned from our preliminary tests there are a range of drills and recommendations we can make to begin encouraging greater engagement and flexibility of the hip. With these drills the aim is to develop the feeling of engaging the glutes whilst running and encouraging a quicker, shorter stride rate.
Alongside movement patterns we also look to create stronger muscles. Building strength can be worked on in many ways, from running over hills to doing regular gym sessions, or with Pilates classes which are available to book through our clinic.
Movements however will take time to develop and can also lapse as fatigue sets in or pace increases. Yet with commitment these movement patterns can become ingrained and unconsciously pull the leg back to its full extent to allow for the full leg drive. The result is that less of the load from the foot taking off goes through the smaller muscles, and instead utilises the larger hamstrings and glutes in a more effective way.
Contact us for more information
The benefits of good running form is not simply limited to running, but can be applied to many other sports such as football and rugby. If you’re interested in learning more about improving your running technique then we’d love to hear from you.
As a clinic and run lab, our experiences allow us to take a runner through the full range of diagnoses’ and treatments for a wide number of injuries whilst thinking about the larger underlying issues. We think about injuries and improvement as a whole to improve the resilience and efficiency of the athlete overall. Our physiotherapy and osteopathy expertise can address underlying injuries whilst our Pilates classes are great for increasing strength and endurance.
For more information on our Run Lab services click here.