How To Improve Your Running Technique

How To Improve Your Running Technique

Matthew Majka is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist living in Melbourne Australia. He
runs his own practice called Empower Health Concepts. Matthew is considered a movement specialist in sport specific training and rehabilitation.  Most notably in skill acquisition and injuries from novice to elite athletes in basketball,  dancing, soccer and running.

Invest in your Body first, not the gadgets

Lets talk about the all powerful exercise of running, with it’s many benefits to health and fitness, team sports, athletics, marathons, running is used for many purposes. There is a plethora of technology in our society to measure your run distance, time and speed, oh and of course don’t forget the shoe sole cushions, air bubbles, barefoot running shoes, the list goes on.

That technology suddenly becomes quite obsolete as soon as pain strikes around the corner in the form of heel pain, knee ache, perhaps some clicking in your hip to go with your latest fitness tracking watch.

Pain can either stop your exercise regime altogether because running is that one form of fitness you actually enjoy, or it’s used in the sport you play, it’s your thing, and pain is taking it away from you.

You might resort to something else that doesn’t interest you as much, maybe cycling, rowing, gym weights, all of the above become boring real quick, and you’re back on the couch not feeling like doing anything.

Related: Why I Get Knee Pain While Running

Common Injuries Associated with Running. It’s Not the End Of The World

We are going to talk about running technique later. Reasons to adapt some of these running tips is to reduce injury risk. There are many types of injuries that can be caused when running.

Running on a hard surface for prolonged periods of time, inadequate footwear, sudden changes to training volume such as, significant changes to distance and speed. Below are some injuries associated with running:

1.) Knee pain: Knee-related injuries are the most common, accounting for 26% – 50% of  all lower-extremity injuries.

2.) Runner’s Knee or Patello Femoral Pain (PFP) syndrome: Runner’s Knee is pain originating from the patella (kneecap), and is caused by overuse. The injury can result from the quadriceps placing a repetitive strain on the patellar tendon; downhill running, may worsen the symptoms.

Other injuries associated with running:
– Achilles tendinitis
– Plantar fasciitis
– Shin splints
– Iliotibial band syndrome
– Stress fracture
– Ankle sprain

Minimise Injury.

How you ask?
Well, there are many ways to ensure you reduce your chances of sustaining an injury but firstly ask your self, have I got healthy joint range of motion and am I strong enough through my trunk and legs, have I done any neuromuscular training?

I’m only going to touch on these briefly as the main purpose of this article is based on running technique. Next article will go in depth regarding specific exercises for running.

So What Areas Should I Focus On?

Core + Hip + Legs: don’t just think 6 pack. I’m talking about the whole tyre that is your core, that wraps around your stomach region, side of your hips and your lower back.

Strengthen and stretch each area of your hip stabilisers such as glute medius, and ensure you are strengthening and stretching your leg muscles: Glute Max, Psoas Group, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Calves, Peroneals.

Running Styles
Next time you are out and about and spot somebody going for their daily run, please observe and analyse their running technique. Rather than just looking at the obvious…”oh there’s somebody out on their daily run” actually have a look at HOW they are running.

You’ll be quite surprised at the many forms of runners out there. Some styles of running include:

1) The Loud and Heavy Runner: Every step taken is designed to destroy and shake the very foundation of the surface they run on, producing unnecessary forces on the joints and is one of the main reasons for experiencing knee, hip and back pain.

2) The Terminator/Robot: Minimal to zero arm movement, only the legs move, the rest are circuits and wires! These runners will usually exhibit very little joint mobility and flexibility. Their running style is stiff like a robot.

3) The Flick Out: Females are culprits on this one as the foot flicks out to the side after each step. This places a lot of strain on the hip internal rotators. They will present with hip and knee pain, I’ll ask to see how they run, which will often look like “The Flick Out”. There’s your problem, think about how many steps you take on your run, each step is jamming and locking up your hip, knee and ankle joints, no wonder you are in pain.

Running Jargon

What’s is Step length
Step length, is the distance covered between initial contact of one foot and initial contact of the opposite foot.

What is Stride Length
A stride incorporates two steps, the left and the right. Stride length is defined as the distance covered between initial contact of one foot and the consecutive initial contact of that same foot (Double the step length).

Technique Prompts

Maintain a short quick stride length -Try not to lengthen your stride: avoid reaching forward with your foot, which can lead to over-striding and increased chances of injury.

Knee in line with your foot – Ensure your foot strikes under your knee, not in front of it, which can lead to injury. Important when running downhill.

Elbow Angle – Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees or less.

Awareness of hands – Make sure your hands don’t cross your midline, or punch forward. Think about bringing your hands up to about the side of your cheeks.

Effect of Good Running Technique
Changes in running technique and mechanics aim to minimise pain of the impact phase at each step.

Switching to a “safer” technique, that is, a “smoother” running style, may also aim to anticipate further damages to the ankle, knee and hip joint.

Research has found that experienced runners have adopted safer and more efficient running biomechanics and as a result will have:

Approximately a 5.9% higher step frequency compared to non-experienced runners.
This means they would move their legs at a faster rate.

Increased step frequency also correlated to 6.3% lower peak ground reaction forces.
Meaning: less forces travelling through your body, placing less strain and trauma further
preserving your joints!

Keep in mind that sudden changes to running mechanics won’t work, you may adopt incorrect running patterns, or worse, injure yourself.

Think long-term, small incremental changes over an extended period of time allowing your body to adapt to the new changes in your running technique.

These changes to your run technique will still need to be met with, strength conditioning, plyometrics, neuromuscular and interval training.

Happy Training Everybody!
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Interested in improving on your running technique? Matthew provides running and gait analysis, followed up with corrective exercise prescription and strength conditioning. Want to know more about Exercise Physiology services, and how it can help you? Get in touch
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