We are taught how to swim, ride a bike and practice specific skills for every sport we play, but very few of us learn how to run. It is assumed in many ways that everyone can run, just as everyone can walk. But, are we running efficiently? Are we setting ourselves up for an injury?
There are many facets to a good running technique; here the points that have the greatest influence are outlined.
Each time you hit the ground your foot should land slightly in front of your centre of mass and your body. The further forward you land the more likely you are to land on your heel. Landing further forward means that you will need to generate more force to get your body to the next step on the opposite foot.
Heel striking can lead to injury as a result of the shock and stress of your body weight moving from the heel through the ankle joint into your knees, hips and lower back. Landing on the heel means that you are not using your body’s natural springs, i.e the calf muscle and Achilles tendon, which act to absorb shock and recoil to “spring” you forward for the next step.
To avoid a heel strike, focus on landing on the middle to front of your foot with each step ensuring the knee is slightly bent upon contact. This is made easier if your posture is maintained upright.
Trunk position has a great influence on pelvic and hip position and therefore whether you land with your heel first.
As a general rule you want an upright posture without excessive lumbar or thoracic curvature. Then from this position you lean slightly forward not from the trunk or the hips but from the ankles.
Control of this position also relates to arm swing. As you swing your arms your body rotates slightly as one arm comes forward and the other back. It is important to minimise this rotation and prevent the arms from crossing the mid-line as this is a waste of energy.
Maintaining good posture requires good core control and stability. This comes from practice when running whilst when you are not fatigued and maintaining focus when we you are fatigued.
The rate at which your feet hit the ground greatly affects how much energy you use and therefore how far and fast you can go. The optimal rate has been found to be three steps per second or 180 steps per minute.
It’s likely that your cadence will be lower and the faster you try to run, the lower your cadence will be. This happens because we generally overstride to increase our speed with the intention of generating more force from a bigger step length. But, bigger steps mean lower cadence and therefore lower efficiency.
Cadence becomes most important when running over longer distances in order of controlling pace across the run and to conserve energy and run efficiently. A metronome is a good way to keep your cadence consistent but in the absence of this I recommend “Hey Ya” by Outkast on your iPod. It’s a cracking song and at 180bpm it will keep your cadence in check.
Get out there and run
With these three factors in mind next time you run keep the following in mind:
- Land on the middle to forefoot, slightly in front of your body with the knee slightly bent
- Upright posture, leaning forward from the ankles
- Three steps per second or 180bpm
If you want further information and guidance, physiotherapists are experts in human movement and running. A selection of Back In Motion practices also hold running seminars, stay in touch on Facebook for updates.
Thomas West - Clinical Associate (Physiotherapist), Back In Motion Sydenham