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With just over a month till the 123rd Boston Marathon, first time and senior runners are heading into the peaks of their training cycles. Increase in frequency, mileage and intensity of workouts often lead to a runner’s increase risk for injury. Injury prevention begins with a runner’s ability to maintain form over prolonged time on feet; fighting through the inevitable fatigue of completing 26.2 miles.

Statistics show “approximately 56% of recreational runners and as high as 90% of runners training for a marathon will sustain a running-related injury each year… 50% of all running-related injuries occur at the knee”(2). So how does one maintain proper running form?

1. Posture

I once read running is actively falling forward, which is true when you think about the time when both feet are in the air advancing onto the next step. Without proper control, one could essentially fall forward. Therefore, when running you want to keep your trunk upright engaging your core to allow for forward propulsion without truly falling down. A great way to visualize this is as if you are putting on a tight pair of pants, bringing your belly button back towards your spine. This small movement activates your lower abdominals, which aid in postural stability. Keeping the core activated will improve your upright posture throughout running.

2. Arm Swing

While most people think of running as a lower body endurance sport, the upper extremities are just as valuable. During walking or running we utilize reciprocal movement from our arms and legs, meaning as one leg goes forward the opposite arm goes forward as well. Arm swing aids in your opposite leg’s ability to drive forward and onward. To initiate, you want to bend your elbows to approximately 90 degrees and with relaxed hands swing your hand from the side of your buttock to the direction of your opposite shoulder.

3. Foot Strike

In practice, there are three different types of foot strike whilst running; heel, midfoot and forefoot. Research indicates that heel striking may increase the load and force that translates through the lower extremity ultimately increasing one’s risk for injury, especially at the knee joint. Positive outcomes have been noted with runners that practice a midfoot to forefoot strike upon landing. With a significant decrease in lower extremity rigidity and incidental braking upon landing as well as less force and load through the knee joints.

4. Center of Mass

A key in bringing together posture and foot strike is from where in your body you are driving forward while running. As fatigue begins to set in, many runners begin to collapse at the trunk with a forward fold leading with either their head or chest. In order to maintain good form, runners should actively think about leading with their hips at the center of their bodies and driving with the knees. This allows you to maintain that core activation, while also ensuring when you land your center of mass is directly over your planted foot setting up for push off.

5. Cadence

Cadence is the number of steps one takes in a minute. Studies have indicated while maintaining one’s speed an increase of step rate decreases the tendency of overstriding, vertical rise, and incidental braking. All of which decrease efficiency and effectiveness in running momentum. Less or equal to 160 steps per minute has been noted as an indicator for overstriding. Unsure? Count your steps!

6. Push Off

There are many jokes that circulate around runners “running their butts off”, but the truth is your glutes are one of the most powerful and important muscles within running mechanics if activated properly. When initiating the next stride forward, runners are pushing off with their toes and extending the back hip and knee. With extension, it is very important to activate those glutes to increase the power of push off further propelling one forward. The glutes also work in conjuncture to your lower abdominals, preventing arching or hyperextension of the lower back aiding in postural stabilization.

 

With so many things to think about while running it can be hard to independently alter your form if necessary. So whether you are just unsure, looking to prehab or are suffering from chronic overuse injuries runners are prone to reach out to POST Physical Therapy and make an appointment today or contact info@postpt.com for more details!

 

References:

Hamilton, Michelle. “How to Prevent Common Running Injuries.” Runner’s World, Runner’s World, 25 May 2018, www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20812228/how-to-prevent-common-running-injuries/.

Heiderscheit, Bryan C, et al. Effects of Step Rate Manipulation on Joint Mechanics during Running. National Institutes of Health , Feb. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3022995/.