Category Archives for Running Form

Running Form Can & Should Change

How your legs move also changes based on speed, terrain, shoes, fatigue, how far you are into a run, etc etc. A study of barefoot Kenyans noted that their at habitual easy pace 3/4th of them were rearfoot strikers. But when they sped up their footstrike shifted forward! In the Leiberman study noted in Born to Run that helped start the "everyone should midfoot strike" craze, the Kenyans who ran barefoot with a forefoot landing where running at a sub 5:00-mile pace! Of course they were tending to forefoot land!

Purposefully Changing Footstrike Mid-Run

Hey! Coach Kyle here.

During a recent long run my left calf was starting to tighten up a bit.

I was ready to end the run and head home, halfway through the workout, when I tried something.

What I did was move from my habitual whole/midfoot landing to more of a rearward landing, which loads the calves less.

This gave my calves some relief and that left calf which had been tightening up was good to go for 10 more miles after just a half mile of me changing my footstrike!

Can purposefully changing your footstrike mid-run help delay fatigue or cramping?

– Click to Tweet

To elaborate more on this topic, one could purposefully change footstrike during long/hard runs to give the legs some relief my changing how the muscles are loaded. On a micro level the muscle fibers themselves cycle out fatigued fibers and in fresh ones, but if you change your whole footstrike on purpose you’re taking it to the macro level.

Research during marathons show that as distance and fatigue set in, people move to a more rearward strike. This is a way your body changes the loading locations, but if you possibly spend a half mile or mile here and there with a more rearward strike before fatigue requires it, maybe you can run a slightly bit better for the entire distance!

Best Articles: Running Form

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Upper Body Running Form | Steve Gonser at RunSmartOnline.com | “Moving your trunk generates large amounts of torque that benefits you as a runner”

Principles of Natural Running Video | Dr. Mark Cucuzzella | “Let’s review the essential features of natural running”

Proper Running Technique: Six Ways to Improve Efficiency | James Dunne | “Whether you’re a heel striker, forefoot / midfoot striker, barefoot runner, etc… there are a number of simple ways in which you can improve the efficiency of your running form.”

My Running Form Analysis | Kyle Kranz | “What did I learn from my gait analysis?”

You may also like: Best Articles on Foot Shape & Movement

Best Articles on: Foot Shape & Movement

Application of the Wet Test & Static Arch Height for Assessing Running Shoes | Pete Larson at RunBlogger | “despite significant differences in arch collapse between the groups during static testing, arch collapse was identical in all three groups during walking, and the only difference observed during running was a small but significant difference between the hypermobile and hypomobile groups”

Can Arch Height Predict Your Running Injuries? | Alex Hutchinson | “There’s no simple, guaranteed connection between your arch height (or any other foot or stride parameter) and your injury destiny or your shoe needs. But there are risk factors that may tilt your odds one way or another—so if you struggle with recurring running injuries, knowing your arch height may offer one more clue to help you sort them out.”

Running Pronation & Over Pronation | Steve Gangemi at SockDoc | “If you want to move well you’ll want to pronate!”

How Does Your Arch Height Affect Your Shoe Choice and Injury Risk? | John Davis at RunnersConnect | “Overall, whether you have a high or low arch will not affect your risk of injury, nor should it affect what type of shoe you choose, but it could affect where you get injured.” 

Do You Pronate? A Shoe Fitting Tale | Pete Larson at Runblogger | “If you pronate, you should get one of the shoes labeled stability.”

You may also like: Best Articles on Shoe Selection

MY Running Form Analysis!

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Recently I provided video of myself running to Run Smart Online for an analysis of my technique.

While the below thoughts and considerations are based on my own movements and weaknesses, there is much that you can learn about running form by watching the videos. It’s likely you’ll learn something new that you can apply to yourself!

Consider swimming or tennis for a moment. Early on the students are taught technique for healthy and economic movement. Yet when you think about new runners it’s quite rare movement is taught. While we may be morn to run, you can still learn and improve how you run.

Why Get a Form Analysis?

If you want to run faster, further, healthier, a running gait analysis will likely benefit you. This is not meant for only elites, anyone seeking these running goals can improve their movement patterns.

How Does a Form Analysis Work?

They always involve three things.

  1. A runner
  2. A gait expert (often a physical therapist)
  3. A camera

Preferably you or the PT will record you running on a treadmill. Next they slow down the footage as you’ll see in the below videos look for a few things, primarily:

  • Line of Progression
  • Arm Positioning
  • Core Rotation
  • Hip Stability
  • Heel Lift / Knee Drive
  • Foot Control
  • Lateral Motion
  • Knee Control
  • Heel Strike
  • Overstride
  • Forward Lean
  • Elbow Angle
  • Vertical Motion

What did I learn from my gait analysis?

  1. I have great running form
  2. But there’s always room to improve
  3. My hips are weak
    1. On one side I compensate for the weak hips and on the other side I do not and my left side my hip drops considerably.
    2. I need to work on my lateral hip stability.
  4. My heel lift / knee drive is low
    1. They like to see the heel come up to the runner’s knee crease
  5. While I don’t have too upright of posture, I could lean forward a bit more.
    1. It’s almost like falling forward.

Bits of Knowledge

I also pulled some good one-liners from Pat in the video.

  • “Running is balancing on one foot to the next.”
  • Arm position helps core rotation.
    • I used to think bringing your arms in towards your center line was a poor form characteristic, however Patrick suggests this helps with torque and using the entire body to run.
  • Even though I have flat feet and am wearing very thin neutral shoes I do not over pronate.
    • The vastus medialis helps control the degree of pronation as well as resupination.
  • “Run with your whole body to use your core”
    • This is a good reminder that it’s important to strengthen your upper body!
  • “Cross training should target muscles that enhance running.”
  • In regards to overstriding, “Pulling is harder than pushing.” Try to land under your knee or center of mass instead of out in front.
  • “Don’t mimic walking at a faster pace”

Wear Pattern & Stride

0 vs 1200 miles

0 vs 1200 miles

Wear pattern on shoes has long been held as a way to determine stride characteristics.

However the truth is that shoe wear pattern does little (or nothing) to actually tell you what your feet are actually doing, as they have a great deal of movement inside the shoe independent of the footwear.

Wear pattern also completely ignores how your feet are interacting with the ground in relation to your body positioning. This important factor may be more crucial than how your foot actually touches the ground.

Below is the initial post asking about Heel Wear Pattern, followed by my response and two others.

So my running shoes show a significant amount of wear on the outer heels of both shoes.

 I run in Brooks Ghost 6s which are Neutral.  It’s almost time for me to buy a new pair.  Does this wear pattern indicate anything that I’m doing wrong and/or should I be looking into getting a different type of shoe? -AStack75

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No indication of anything wrong. If they’re comfortable and you’re happy with them, feel free to purchase the same or a similar pair. I’d recommend getting that new pair and slowly transitioning from the old to the new pair. Start off with your shortest run in the new pair and every week you could add one more run in the new shoes until the old ones are phased out, or you can wear them both for as long as that other pair is good for.

Depending on how long you’ve had the shoes and how significant the wear is, it could possibly hint that you’re heal striking a bit heavily. It’s most important to try to not land with a straight and outstretched leg in front of your body, but land with a flexed knee closer to under your center of mass, perhaps with a slightly less pronounced dorsiflexion of the ankle. But again, that’s just a “maybe” without actually seeing you run. -kjkranz

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The above is good advice. 

Some people will tell you heel striking is bad. Don’t listen to them. What’s bad is landing with the knee extended and the foot out in front of you as kjkranz states. 

If there’s a lot of wear on the heel, it’s also possible that you scuff or slide the foot as you land–I’ve seen people do that. But lateral heel wear is pretty normal even without a gait problem. There’s a reason many manufacturers put more durable rubber in that area. -Duck916

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Yeah, that’s a typical wear pattern.  And I like kjkranz recommendations on running form. -Nazaretti

Strength is in your BRAIN

This is a quote that was posted on Facebook, and I wanted to share it here.

There is a lot of talk in the running world about the importance of strength training for increasing performance and injury prevention. I agree with the current research that explosive and heavy resistance training increases stiffness within the muscle-tendon system resulting in increases in running economy, but running economy is measuring steady state oxygen uptake (VO˙ 2). Running economy is more a measure of physiology (performance measure) than pure mechanical efficiency. It is not looking at how the athlete gets from point A to B. General strength and the ability to generate force is extremely important, but only if produced in a coordinated and timely fashion to produce the desired outcome of the individual athlete. Most athletes are not structurally ready to handle explosive and/or heavy resistance training. Running with 2.5x body weight while on one leg, over time and distance at a given pace is hard enough. Data can show increases in power, reduction in contact times, increases in muscular stiffness, and even reductions in right/left asymmetries, but it doesn’t automatically preclude the athlete from injuries. Quantitative data is only useful if it helps improve the athletes “Running Resiliency”.

I believe it is important that runners understand MUSCLES are STUPID. Muscles need the brain to consciously and unconsciously tell them what to do, and at what time to do it in, in order to produce the muscular patterns that are appropriate for the desired task. I am not going to give the muscle, in isolation, that much credit and responsibility to automatically pull to body into the correct position when running. The brain needs to intrinsically understanding the goal of the desired movement, and then needs to organize a movement plan that will be sent to the musculoskeletal system in order to produce the desired task (running). This requires skill, are you training skill or just strength without purpose?

I truly Believe runners can run with fewer injuries. I Believe we are uniquely design to move/run, but culturally have devolved and are structurally less skillful. I Believe we have complete control over our bodies and movement, and thus ultimately the incidence rate of our injuries. Are you training better movement by training your brain to express more efficient and optimal movement patterns? Don’t get me wrong this can and needs to happen in conjunction with a specific plyometric and heavy resistance strength training program, but you better be in the right place at the right time when performing these exercises. Open for discussion. Please share and discuss!

Stephen Scott- Professor in Neuroscience, Queens University
Movement Skill: 3 Fundamental Components (3 B’s)
1. Brain
2. Biomechanics
3. Behavior

Train Better Movement!

Arm Position & Running

Notice the high hands. And yes, I'm wearing a Pikachu hoodie.

Notice the high hands. And yes, I’m wearing a Pikachu hoodie.

Below is my comment on the article by Gretchen Reynolds at the NY Times

I used to carry my hands lower when I ran, assuming holding them too high would be a waste of energy (similar to Wally Dunn’s thinking below) however I would often get sore shoulders during races ranging from the 5k to the 100 miler. Then one day I saw a video of myself during a V02 Max test and it dawned on me that holding my arms lower required more effort to move them, and since I have a high step cadence I move my arms quite rapidly.

Since seeing that video I made a conscious effort to raise my hands and keep them in a bit tighter to my body.

I’ve no longer experienced the sore shoulders during races 🙂

Also, one of my favorite quotes about arm position comes from Gordon Pirie:

“Some say it does not really matter what a runner does with their arms. My response is to ask them if it is okay if I run with one arm behind my back and the other between my legs. They look at me as if I’ve lost my marbles. Then I put both hands over my head and ask: “is this okay?” Or, I’ll put my hands on my ears and ask: “how about this?”. If none of hose methods of carrying your arms is correct, and if we eliminate all the incorrect ways of using your upper body and arms (reductio ad absurdum in mathematics), we logically should arrive at something that works very well indeed.”

RW: “Heel Landing Beats Midfoot In Half-Marathon Study”

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This is a repost from The Motivated Runner website. I suggest you visit and subscribe over there, Jack shares a lot of great content.

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Yesterday there was an article that came from RunnersWorld.com concerning the almighty mid-foot vs. rearfoot debate. This debate has raged for the past 10 years with attempts to answer the question in a black and white fashion. Most of us have realized by now that nothing in life is black and white, including foot strike. I have my opinion on the topic, but also realize that different things work for different people.

I get really annoyed with Runner’s World because many posts are what I would consider ”hacky”. They have found ways to make viewers pay attention, click on their links, and read their articles all in the interest of ad money and readership of their flailing publication. This is nothing new or novel and somewhat the model of how every website and blog works, but I do believe there are more responsible ways to go about it.

Runner’s World loves to post the same articles over and over as well as articles with little to no information. Amby Burfoot’s most recent post on a study conducted by the University of Spain was one such article. The title stated: “Heel Landing Beats Midfoot in Half-Marathon Study”. So, of course, everyone clicked on it as Runner’s World would hope. I too, was sucked in thanks to FaceBook messages, emails, and tweets from friends. The article had little to no substance on an insufficient study, with no details of how the study was conducted. This of course created a firestorm of comments, likes, twitter conversations, and buzz. Exactly what Runner’s World needs to try to save a struggling publication of repeating material.

So enough Runner’s World bashing, on to issues with their post and what we don’t know about the study:

1. Efficiency is a whole body issue, not just foot strike. Runners have many inefficiencies in their posture, arm swing, breathing, and alignment. To say that the efficiency of running is completely based around a mid-foot or forefoot strike is incorrect.
2. All of the runners were able to run in whatever shoe they liked. We know that shoe choice can affect gait mechanics. A higher heeled shoe can catch and encourage a strike more out in front of the body (typically with heel first), whereas a level platform shoe allows for the foot to swing through more freely and land closer to the body (less drastic heel landing or mid-foot strike).
3.The study contained only 20 runners. 20 is a very small sample size and not one in which an accurate data set can be gathered. It’s hard to come to conclusions with only 20 people.
4. Treadmill running was the only form of measurement. With the exception of the winter months, runners are most typically outside hitting the roads. Treadmill running isn’t a direct comparison to road running. I do realize that gathering data outside is difficult.
5. The title of the article simply states that heel landing “beats” mid-foot striking at the half marathon distance. However, inside the article they state that mid-foot strikers are on average faster. Running faster leads to decreased running economy. Just like driving faster lowers MPG. The goal is to run as fast as you can and have nothing left at the finish, not to have the highest MPG. That being said, if you run out of gas, you go slower or stop. It’s a trade off. As far as I know, the faster time “beats” the slower time in races.

I have been really annoyed with the number of irresponsible articles in all forms of media lately. After doing a lot of research of what sells on my website, I have seen trends in many of the “hacky” websites. It’s quite disturbing to say the least and goes unnoticed to the typical consumer.

I want everyone to be more aware of what is going on and to question silly articles like these. They are misleading and focused on driving ad sales and magazine sales. Question the authenticity of all studies and try to go to the root of it, not the Runner’s World take on it. Although, Runner’s World made that impossible by not providing a link to the abstract of the study. Runner’s World, you receive a F.