Over the weekend I participated in a discussion about stride length on the Running Discussion Board on Facebook. Basically it was about a keen runner who wanted to increase his stride.
There was a bit of a mixture of advice if I am honest. Some good, some not so good but it did give me a great idea for a blog post so I think everyone is a winner.
Heel Strike, Forefoot or Mid-Foot?
One of the things this post did spark was the whole debate about which part of your foot should be hitting the ground first. Let me tell you now, it really does not matter. You can land on any part of your foot you want, none of the options make you more or less prone to injury.
So what does make a difference?
Firstly, DO NOT try to artificially lengthen your stride. You will end up like the guy in the photo on the right. Over-reaching and landing on the back of your heel underneath a straight leg. This loads up your joints instead of your muscles and has been proven to be a contributing factor to knee injury, shin splints, hip tendon injuries and lower back pain among runners.
How To Fix Over-striding
Unfortunately this type of gait is very very common. It doesn't have to be permanent though. It can easily be fixed with some perseverance and a couple of simple gait tweaks.
All of the following are visible when you compare the 2 runners from the above photo...
1. Run Tall
Keep your head up, look straight forward and stay relaxed through your shoulders. Being tall will actually help you improve forward momentum.
2. Lift your knees and toes up slightly.
Add in a slightly higher knee lift like the guy on the left. While you are doing this, think about also pulling your toes upwards. This will give you a bit more air time and allow you to land underneath yourself more, making more of a mid-foot ground contact with a flexed knee rather than out in front of you under a straight knee
3. Use your arms
Do this by driving your elbows backwards in a natural running motion. I know this sounds daft but it will help you transfer momentum and core strength into your legs and actually drive you forward.
Give these a go for the next 3-4 weeks when you are out on your runs. You should immediately feel like you have more forward momentum and that you are running lighter and not impacting the ground as heavily
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This is not a turn up, do some running and go home sort of session. Instead, each session on the boot camp is designed to help you develop a fluid and efficient running gait that will make you run faster and help you avoid injury.
It is perfect for beginners who want to make that initial start and for intermediate runners who want to get a bit stronger and improve their running style. Each session is run by a personal trainer and sports injury therapist who is a specialists in running gait training. You will be encouraged to work and develop at your own pace throughout the program so don't worry about competing with anyone else just turn up and let me help you enjoy running without having to worry about those pesky injuries holding you back.
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Darren has over 10 years experience in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, sports injury therapist and most recently as an educator to other trainers. Originally from South Wales, he went to Liverpool University to study Sports Science and liked the city so much, he decided to stay. Since finishing his degree he set up a thriving personal training and injury rehab business which continues to this day. He has recently moved over to Denby Dale in West Yorkshire and has opened Faster Fitness Solutions, a multi-purpose training and rehabilitation facility located in the heart of the village.