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By Susie Fagerholm

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Mon Apr 13, 2020

runner

Most runners want to know how they can be a better runner and how to stay injury free.  The answer is having efficient running technique to decrease the amount of excess motion and time spent on the ground. This article will focus on the top 5 Running Techniques that will help you achieve your running goals this coming season. 

The most important running technique is core activation.  The lower abdominals (transverse abdominals and pelvic floor musculature) are the prime stabilizers of your pelvis and lower back.  The second most important core stabilizing muscles are gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These glute muscles control the hips and to stabilize the lower extremities, along with the foot and ankle.  To activate the core gently tighten inwards at the lower abdominals and glutes. When the core muscles are activated it is easier to implement the following running techniques.  

A slight lean forward is another key running technique.  Running is a controlled fall forwards therefore, implementing a slight lean forward helps with the forward propulsion component when running.  In order to perfect a lean forward it is necessary to be able to activate your lower abdominals and gluts to stabilize your trunk, pelvis, and lower extremities.  The lean forward initiates from the ankle and not the hips while maintaining a neutral pelvis and trunk. Naturally there will be a slight lean from the hips so it is not necessary to focus this aspect because too much lean from the hips will cause hip flexor overuse and strain.  

Once you have incorporated the use of the core and the forward lean during your run; working on stride length and stride width is next.  Having a shortened stride length decreases the amount of time on the ground which deceases excess motion of the foot/ankle, knee, and the hip.  To implement a shorter stride length try to land under your hip and quickly push your foot into the floor and flick the foot up behind you. Pushing off into the floor behind you aids with the use of the calf, hamstring, and gluts which allows for a natural lean and propulsion forward.  Stride width is equally important because when you have your feet 1-2 inches apart you are able to activate the hips and core more efficiently during your run. When the feet are tandem this is only efficient when you are running at a race pace. For a training run and hard workouts a wider base of support is more helpful to condition the larger muscle groups of the hips and lower legs.  

Once a shorter stride length and wider stride width has been practiced it is easier to increase your cadence because these two running techniques go hand in hand. A faster cadence of 165-180 steps per minute is more efficient due to less time spent with your foot on the ground making it easier to increase your pace with less effort.  In general, find what your cadence is and then increase your steps per minute by 5 steps at first and aim to increase by 10 steps per minute over time. When you activate the core, forward lean, and shorter stride length along with increasing your cadence this makes it even easier to increase your pace.  

The last running technique that will be mentioned is landing midfoot as your foot strikes the ground.  This is preferred over a forefoot strike and heel strike because a midfoot strike is a compromise between the two extremes.  A midfoot strike takes some effort from the foot and ankle to implement but not as difficult as a forefoot strike. With a midfoot strike it is easier to lean forwards and helps decrease knee strain unlike a heel strike.   A midfoot strike will more naturally occur once you have mastered the above techniques of core activation, a lean forward, shortened stride length, and a faster cadence.  

When implementing these training techniques be mindful to add them into your run in small increments one at a time in the sequence mentioned above to allow your body to condition to a new running pattern.

If you have any questions contact Susie Fagerholm PT, DPT at Susie@RunPT.com  or FB, Twitter, and Instagram at SusRunPT.

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