Proper Running Form. Innate or Learned?

Jogging and running have become more popular than ever. As the number of people that are engaged in these activities grows, increased incidences of acute and chronic running injuries naturally occur

Being a Chiropractor for 25 years and a long-time runner, which includes over 20 marathons and several ultra-marathons (50 miles Plus), I have experience and interest in the biomechanics of proper running technique. I have observed and experienced exceptional physiological and psychological, along with the devastating effects that running can have on the body when a technique is not correctly implemented.

 In this blog, I will talk about some of the basic running biomechanics that can be utilized by the beginner to advanced runner.

 Most believe that a runner will naturally find his best stride and that stride should not be changed. However, just like throwing a baseball, running is a skill that must be learned due to the stresses and forces being put into the body to perform that action. 

The thought that running is a natural movement that should not be corrected is easy to debate. Foremost, we experience that outside influences such as what running shoe you where or what orthotics are placed in that shoe impacts gait dramatically. Due to the closed kinematic chain, this, in turn, affects the entire body’s biomechanics, including the pelvis and spine. 

One method of motor learning is done by using the feedback. A simple analogy would be the first time a child puts his hand on the hot stove, he learns quickly that wasn’t a good idea. Similarly, if a child develops correctly, he quickly would learn that landing heel first when running is not a good idea. It hurts to over stride and slam your heel down into the ground. But since we grow up wearing heavily cushioned shoes, the cushioning eliminates this negative feedback. There is no consequence for heel striking, so there is no learning taking place.

The most common injuries I see in runners are related to the foot and lower leg which causes hip and spine injuries.  Most injuries will be related to simple over-stressing the supportive tissues, muscles, tendons, fascia, and ligaments, especially if they are inadequately supported.  This means it is important to look at the structures, including muscles and joints that support proper running biomechanics.

What are the benefits of chiropractic care? Chiropractic helps by keeping the body moving efficiently, which eases mechanical loads and stress on the body, whether it is a marathon you are training for or simply every day repeated movements.  At Nuzzi Chiropractor we can also help determine the likelihood of a future injury by identifying joint restrictions or muscle imbalances. This can lead to more physical wear and tear on the body, which will produce compensations which are harmful in the long term and eventually cause an injury. To properly treat these injuries, a thorough understanding of normal walking and running gait is critical.

 When analyzing the gait cycle, foot motion facilitates and can be affected by, compensatory movement of the other bones and joints in the lower extremity. Improper alignment of the lumbar spine and lower limb below can alter mechanics and lead to injury. Therefore, it is essential to understand the biomechanics of running gait along the entire kinetic chain

Summary of Running Form:

  1. Body Position- upright, slight lean from the ground. Head and face relaxed.
  2. Feet- As soon as the knee comes through, put the foot down underneath you. Land mid or forefoot underneath the knee, close to the center of the body.
  3. Arm stroke- controls the rhythm, forward and backward from the shoulder without side to side rotation
  4. Hip extension- extends the hip and then leave it alone.
  5. Rhythm- Control rhythm and speed through arm stroke and hip extension.
Dr. Lori Nuzzi

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