Running and walking form can tell a lot about someone’s muscular imbalance and possibilities for overuse injuries. There will always be a uniqueness to each person’s gait, but there are some key foundations that each runner should strive to achieve. The four areas of focus are the ankle/foot, the hip, the core, and the shoulder. When compensations are understood and limited, the nagging pain and fear that overuse injuries cause can be eliminated.
Common foot/ankle overuse injuries from running include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, calf pain, and tibial stress syndrome or shin splints. All of these are due to muscle imbalances or a lack of endurance within certain muscle groups. A lot of the time you will see secondary factors such as over pronation of the foot, toes curling under, or bunion formation. The two most common weaknesses you will see are of peroneus longus and tibialis posterior. Both of these aid in controlling the arch of the foot. If these get weak, then calf, Achilles, and plantar fascia try to make up the difference. If you fall in this category, strengthening the eccentric load of these two muscle groups is key. As these muscles are strengthened functionally, you might notice lighter footsteps and more weight on the outside of your foot when running.
Typically issues of the hip tend to show up at the knee. Overuse injuries in this area include IT band syndrome, patellar tendinitis, piriformis syndrome and trochanteric bursitis. One of the main things we look for in running form is a crossover gait, which is a subsequent sign of these diagnoses. A crossover gait is when the foot lands too far under our center of mass. This puts abnormal stress at the medial knee and influences an increased rate of pronation at the foot. Eccentric load of gluteus medius (one of your butt muscles) is the key. If you have foot/ankle issues, do not leave this guy out!
The core is the foundation of pelvic stability, which means everything below it could suffer if the core is found to be weak. Common overuse injuries that we see in runners involving the core are psoas impingement, low back spasm, disc compression, and every other diagnosis previously discussed. Strengthening of the transversus abdominis and the obliques should be the goal of core work for runners. Things to look for are pelvic tilt or drop when running. When the leg is in the are, the abs are in control of the pelvis. When the leg is on the ground the glutes are in control of pelvic stability. Both must be used simultaneously on opposite sides for the pelvis to stay neutral when running.
Abnormal arm swing can be seen as a sign that something in the opposite lower extremity is not being used appropriately. Arm swing is typically fixed as the lower extremity issue is resolved. Too much arm swing on one side? Look for same sided oblique weakness and/or opposite side lower extremity issues.
The goal of all of these issues is to fix the functional cause of the problem. We provide every patient that has interest in running or walking long distances video analysis for this very reason. Understand that orthotics will mask the muscular deficiency. And no… stretching will not fix your issue. Most people run to stay in shape, to clear their mind, or as a hobby. Most people do not think about how important running form is until overuse and degeneration has taken its toll. Make sure that your healthy habit is actually healthy!
Contact us today to be sure you are running with great running form!