Quick Tips to Keep Your Runs Injury Free.
Running injuries are quite literally a pain. Whether you are trying to lose weight or are training for a race, the last thing you need is for an injury to keep you from getting out there.
Running injuries happen because of an imbalance between the amount of damage the body takes and the body’s ability to recover from that damage. Identifying the actions that are hardest on your body and making some simple adjustments to limit the amount of damage done from running will help stop those injuries in their tracks.
Here are a some quick tips to correct the two most common running problems that often lead to injury: overstriding and crossover gait.
Runners who land hard are more susceptible to injury than runners who land softly. Overstriding (running with a long stride length) causes the foot to land too far in front of the body. This creates a braking effect, translating impact shock all the way up the kinetic chain. Vertical displacement (how much your body goes up and down) also increases with stride length. In other words, runners with longer strides have to take their bodies higher off the ground for each step, leading to a harder foot strike when they come back down.
Tip #1: Quick feet
A slower cadence (the number of footfalls per minute) can lead to overstriding. Evidence shows that one way to decrease impact force is to decrease stride length while maintaining the same speed. How do you do that? Take more steps. Running experts generally suggest trying to increase your cadence to 180 steps per minute (90 on each foot). You’ll be moving your legs quicker, but not increasing your speed.
Tip #2: Land soft
Another way to avoid slamming into a hard heel strike is to think about landing soft, which will automatically help keep your feet under your center of gravity, reducing the dreaded overstride.
Problem: Crossover gait
Crossover gait is when the feet cross over the mid-line while running. It is another one of the most common causes of running-related injuries, such as IT band syndrome, shin splints, foot and ankle pain, and low back pain. Glute weakness can be one of the root causes of crossover gait. Every time a runner with weak glutes lands on their stance leg, the pelvis on the opposite leg will drop lower, setting that swing leg up to drift inwards (adduct) excessively towards the midline. So strengthening your glutes to help combat that pelvic drop is the first step to fixing the crossover.
Tip #1: Strengthening your glutes
Improving hip strength on the stance leg will help your standing leg support the weight of the leg that’s swinging, so it doesn’t drop toward the midline, which in turn causes your foot to land “crossed over.” Basic exercises performed daily like Clams, Side Planks, or Single Leg Bridges can help balance out those stabilizers.
Tip #2: Run wide or run straight
While combatting glute weakness will improve pelvic control, don’t forget that one huge aspect of running is neuromuscular control, and gait pattern is often deeply ingrained from the thousands (even millions!) of steps that you’ve taken before. So to help that crossover gait, think about “running wide,” as if you’re running down the median of a highway, and don’t let your feet cross over the line.
By: Melissa Luety, PT, DPT
Melissa Luety received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder in Journalism and Fine Arts and her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Illinois-Chicago. Prior to earning her DPT, Melissa spend eight years as a graphic designer and art director before changing career paths to follow her true passion. A lifelong athlete, Melissa is an avid runner who finds balance through her practice of yoga. She values the hands-on treatment she can provide as a manual physical therapist and enjoys helping everyone from weekend warriors to competitive athletes perform their best.
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