Running Gait Analysis – Is There an Ideal Running Technique?

Daniel Reeves (Physiotherapist – Burnie)

Are you a runner that has had an injury in the past?

If so, you’ll know that injury can be very frustrating and in some cases put a complete halt to your training.

Most running injuries (approximately 80%) will be due to errors in training usually associated with excessive loading experienced by the body such as increasing frequency, distance or intensity too quickly (see Jarrod’s previous blog here: https://coastalphysiotherapy.com.au/top-running-training-tips/).

Something that can influence the load experienced by the body is your running gait or your running technique.

For example, changing foot strike significantly will increase load on a different area of the body.

Running with a forefoot strike (landing more on the front of your foot) will cause an increase in load through the achilles tendon and calf muscles. Running with a rear-foot strike (landing more on your heel) will lead to increased load through the knees and hips. Having the knees fall inward when your foot is on the ground can cause more load on the knee cap (patella-femoral) joint and structures on the outside part of your leg like your ITB.

The main takeaway message from the above is that the way you run can shift load from one area to another and consequently increase load on different areas of the body.

This increased load has the potential to contribute to injury if it exceeds your capacity to tolerate that load.

This is why some people who switch from a rear-foot strike to a mid or fore-foot strike end up with calf and achilles issues. They shift load from their knees and hips to their achilles and calf muscles which are not used to coping with that specific amount of load.

Side-note: One foot strike pattern is not better than another. There is no performance benefit for a certain foot strike pattern and injury rates are similar. A study looking at the elite marathon runners revealed that 73% of females and 67% of males were rear-foot strikers and some even changed their foot strike pattern at different stages throughout the race.

The good news is that most people will self-select a running technique that allows them to be more efficient. The bad news is that feeling comfortable or being efficient for performance will not necessarily be optimal with regards to load on the body (this is evident in some elite runners that can run fast times but have questionable technique). In these instances though, their bodies are able to cope with the load placed upon it.

With all that said, the answer from the current evidence…there is NOT an ideal running technique but there may be characteristics that are desirable for both performance and reducing injury risk.

Some basic running technique tips are:

  • Run tall and don’t lean too far forward
  • Have a relaxed arm swing
  • Aim to foot strike close to under your pelvis (under your center of mass) rather than too far in front of your body (over striding).

A running gait analysis involves video analysis of treadmill and/or over-ground running technique. Through a running gait analysis, it is possible to fine tune your running technique to try and modify the load on painful areas or give you takeaways that will potentially help you to be a more efficient runner.

If you have an injury from running, would like your running gait assessed or think running could be contributing to your pain, call our Burnie clinic and book an assessment – 64314586.