I often find myself sat in the local park observing the various postures of runners, some which are good, and some are an injury waiting to happen. It is estimated that 65 - 80 % of runners acquire an injury, whether due to overtraining, unsupportive footwear or insufficient core strength. Of over 2 million recreational runners, it is thought that up to 25% are out of action at any one time.
Common running injuries that I see in practice are:-
⦁ shin splints
⦁ ITBand syndrome
⦁ runners knee
⦁ Achilles tendonitis
⦁ plantar fasciitis
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN POOR TECHNIQUE AND INJURIES
Research from The University of Salford looked at specific aspects of running technique, through infrared gait analysis, in runners with a history of injury (shin splints, IT band syndrome, Runners knee or Achilles tendinopathy) compared to those without.they identified how poor posture increases the stress placed throughout the body while running.
Common biomechanical patterns were discovered in the injured runners that differentiated between them and the injury free runners:-
⦁ an outstretched leg and high foot angle at initial contact
⦁ greater forward lean
⦁ side to side, or contralateral, pelvic drop - for every 1° increase in pelvic drop, the risk of being injured increased by 80%
Runner A = injured pattern, characterised by high foot angle on contact and forward lean
Runner B = healthy pattern
Runner A = injured pattern, characterised by pelvic drop
Runner B = healthy pattern
WHAT IS GOOD RUNNING TECHNIQUE?
A persons posture will reflect in how they run. The easiest way to explain a good running posture is to imagine a line dissecting the body from feet, through ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and ears. This line should be maintained when you're running, with a slight forward tilt ie. this line will come up from the ground at a slight forward angle.
1)FEET & ANKLES
⦁ In a normal walking pattern, the foot lands with a heel strike out in front of the body and a straight leg, but with running the force passing through the legs is greatly increased, therefore it is important to maintain slightly soft knees as opposed to fully extended.
⦁ A mid-foot landing will aid shock absorption and promote a better body position. Mid foot planting is much easier if maintaining a slight forward tilt .
⦁ Many runners overstride which means that they land with a heel strike out in front of the body. This has a brake like effect, causing the body to slow as it lifts itself over the foot. It also increases the impact through the joints. Ideally the foot should land directly under the body while pushing forwards.
⦁ The hips are essential for running propulsion and knee drive. In the posterior chain, there should be good leg extension as the body moves over the foot. If this is restricted, through hamstring injury, for example, your stride length will be limited.
⦁ Glutes should be engaged and hips loose to gain full propulsion with each stride.
⦁ By running tall, with shoulders back and abdominal muscles pulled in, the pelvis slightly tilts posteriorly. This brings the hips up towards chest, making it easier to lift the knees when running.
⦁ Keeping the shoulders relaxed will assist with good breathing patterns and general movement. Any movement in shoulders should only be coming from propelling the arms forward, not from the shoulders themselves.
⦁ A diagonal link from the shoulder and arm to the opposite hip through torso should be maintained -keeping the shoulders relaxed with a gentle bend at the elbow, close to the torso. Hands should be moderately relaxed.
⦁ Arm movement should only be forwards and backwards to help propel the body forwards. Sideways movements are counterproductive and will require the legs to overcompensate.
⦁ The head should face forwards in line with the rest of the body. If too far forwards or facing down, lifting the knees at the front of the running gait willbe difficult, whereas if the head is too far back, it will cause heel striking and overstriding. ⦁ Reduce any excessive head movement as the body will then overcompensate
⦁ Tension in shoulders, face and neck are indicate poor breathing technique. Runners should be using their full lung capacity, breathing in through belly.
PRACTICE EXERCISE TO IMPROVE RUNNING TECHNIQUE
⦁ running on the spot - bringing knees about half way up to hip height, landing on the mid foot and having a short, spring like contact time on the ground .
⦁ Once comfortable doing this, increase knees to hip height.
⦁ Practice buttock kicks on the spot to activate the glutes.Keeping arms straight down behind you, back of hands on buttocks, flick feet up towards bottom,(alternating) touching hand if possible with heels, maintaining upright posture, rather than leaning forward.
⦁ Progress with buttock kicks by continuing exercise while moving forwards. Do for about 20m then jog back using suggested posture.