Does it matter how I run as long as I cross the Finish Line injury free? I mean, sounds good to me, right? Finishing months and months of training injury free would be ideal and you may think the end all, be all, but what if you could run your Race with less effort, more power AND injury free? And who said you even have to be one who signs up and spends millions on races such as marathons or 10k’s, how about just TRAIN smarter and happier?
This is where dialing in your running form can help. Are you a heel striker? Does it matter if I am and have been all my life and have been injury free? Ok this is a question you really need to ask yourself and honestly answer for yourself…I can’t answer this one for you – some do go injury free their whole running lives…but what if it wasn’t only about injuries? but becoming faster with less effort? – Ohhhhh now do I have your attention back?
Just making some very small changes to your running gait can help you become a stronger, more efficient runner. Today I will address ONE very big change that can either MAKE you or BREAK you! And because I see this the most in everyone’s racing photos or training selfies 🙂 (no judgments here on the running selfies, I take them all the time too, just after I finish my run since I haven’t quite figured out how to set up my camera on the ground and get those perfect shots like alot of you can – yes I’m jealous, haha) I think it is the most important to address.
1) Foot placement – If you are a heel striker and especially if have bought into the whole hype of “minimalist” runners, then you are in BIG TROUBLE, maybe not today or tomorrow, but I guarantee, down the road you will be posting your “depressed, I can’t workout” posts due to an injury. Doesn’t mean you have to throw away all those UBER cute shoes, but it does mean you will want to change your foot strike (and yes I made it all about the cute shoes, but there are other reasons why you should perhaps look into your running gait and analyze it a little deeper. And NO this is not about bashing minimalist shoes, because I know many a HOKA runners who deal with heel striking injuries).
When you HEEL strike, you are basically “jamming on the brakes” in front of you. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to be running for countless miles and time, the last thing I want to do is jam on the breaks. Not only is it inefficient, but it is very hard on your legs, resulting in much higher impact forces on the heels, knees, hips and back.
By default, most HEEL strikers are also ones who have longer strides, not always, but most times then not. By fully extending the leg to heel strike, you are virtually fully lengthening the hamstring (the muscle in the back of the legs – yes I read Anatomy for Dummies). A long muscle is not the strongest muscle. When the muscle is overstretched through a long stride and is completely stretched out, it loses its elastic springiness, leading to a slower cadence, more energy wasted by the muscle and a decreased ability to absorb shock… a.k.a setting yourself up for a hamstring tear….and we ain’t got time for that!! And let us not leave out our quadriceps in this equation…when you over stride you have to fully contract your quads in order to extend the leg fully to reach heel contact. Once again, all wasted energy that can be tweaked and done away with.
By changing your gait to a mid-foot or forefoot, this will put less impact on your body, since bent joints are natural shock absorbers. The leg contacts the ground perpendicularly to the ground, letting both the hamstring and quad muscle function in a neutral length, which improves muscle elasticity and shock absorption. If you keep your foot almost directly under the body, (keeping the center of gravity aligned), lean slightly forward and use shorter, faster steps, you will become a more efficient, and dare I say it, a faster runner with less effort and wear and tear on the body.
You will want to aim for 180 Strides Per Minute (SPM). Keeping your turnover quick and short, no matter the speed your are cranking out. Be sure to download SPM – The Magic Number from the www.portaPT.com SHOP. This Audio Coached Workout will have you training the high quick turnover and also let you know where you currently are and what to work on for that faster, happier, more efficient running stride!
Dial In Your Running Form Click here to download a 15 second demonstration of forefoot running form.