There can be a lot to pay attention to when it comes to our movement patterns, particularly with running.  This is especially important because running is a high-impact, repetitive exercise that is often performed over very long periods of time.  Unfortunately, that is often the perfect formula for the creation of overuse injuries, such as tendonitises and muscle strains.

Important factors to consider include:

1)  Step cadence- The optimal step rate is 180 steps/minute.  For many of us, our natural step cadence is too slow.  In fact, a 5-10% increase in step rate can reduce loading to the hip and knee joints when running.  Metronomes, watches, and songs set to 180 bpm can help keep the right rhythm.  If you do need to increase your step cadence, the rule of thumb is to increase your rate by just 10% a week to build safely.

2)  Average vertical loading rate- This refers to how hard you are hitting the ground.  Landing “softly” can decrease the incidence of femoral neck stress fractures, runner’s knee syndromes, compartment syndromes, ACL strains, and tibial stress injuries.

3)  Step width- Increasing the distance slightly between the feet and where they land can also prevent injury.  This helps to combat the force of gravity on our knees that often make them buckle “down and in”.  By increasing step width by 20% of one’s leg length can decrease the forces that pull adversely on our joints.  The knees and ankles/feet are able to strike the ground with less torque placed on these joints.

4)  Vertical oscillation- This refers to the distance of upward travel.  You want to limit how high you are translating; the movement of running should be forward, not upwards.  Intuitively, reducing the vertical oscillation of our bodies can reduce the average vertical ground reaction forces.  This means there is less impact going through our joints.  You want your momentum to be going forward!

5)  Foot strike-  What part of the foot are you landing on?  There is some debate here, but there is some research that supports forefoot striking to reduce stress on the knee.

There is a lot to consider here, so take your time with it and don’t focus on all of it at once!  When you embark on retraining. make sure that you are decreasing current problems and symptoms without producing new ones.  Hopefully gait adjustments can be learned easily and quickly.  Ideally, this should not affect performance  and will translate to muscle memory over time.

A great way to get help with running form is to visit your physical therapist for a running evaluation!