I finally feel like I recently turned the corner on some injuries I was experiencing. It took me a month and a lot of reduced mileage running to figure out what my issues were. I had wondered if it was my new shoes? Was it too much mileage too quick? Was it that I had not stretched enough, and was I too inflexible? Was it because I did not cross train enough? Do I need strength training? Well, I changed all of these things and I was still experiencing issues. I was really losing confidence in my ability to run.
So, last week after a lot of rest, I had experienced the issue again on one of my runs, and I stopped and walked a while. I massaged the areas that were bothering me, and then I started running slowly back home. I ran with a much slower shorter stride and that got me home.
When I got home, I started pondering more about it and did more web research and then I finally figured out the issue. I had been overstriding. I was kind of shocked that this was it. I was surprised that I could make such a rookie mistake. But, rookies are not the only ones who can fall prey to this. It is very easy to start overstriding without realizing it.
I confirmed that it was overstriding because the very next day, I made slight adjustments to my stride and experienced no issues. And I have not had any issues since.
I am suspecting now that I have always been an overstrider to some degree, but it only became a problem when I tried to increase mileage quickly.
I found some excellent links that illustrated exactly what the issue was. The caption for this first link, which is video, is as follows.
Video of 4 runners from roughly the 10K mark of the 2009 Manchester City Marathon/Half-Marathon. Note the contrast in stride and footstrike between runners 1 and 3 (flexed knee, midfoot or very mild heel landings) and runners 2 and 4 (overstriding with extended leg and massive heel strike). Runner 3 appears to have the best form.
This next video is the most clear explanation of the issue that I found. I had always heard about Chi running, but never really knew anything about it.
And this last link was also very helpful in the way it was explained.
I have always heard that you should run the way that feels most natural, with the caveat to watch out for overstriding. I always knew about overstriding, but never really thought I was doing it. I actually overstrided,but even when I overstrided, I generally did not heel strike that hard, so I did not suspect this.
By the way, on a last note, I watched the Boston Marathon at the 20 mile mark. And it was a great experience. The thing that struck me the most, is that all of the top runners and all of the runners that were 3 hour or less runners had amazingly efficient and proper strides and perfect balance. They were really beautiful to see. They all had unique strides. Some lifted knees higher than others, etc. But, nobody overstrided. I did not see any evidence of it in these runners. I doubt that you could be so successful if you were an overstrider.
The first link above shows runners in a marathon that were overstriding. I just doubt they were very successful with that method.
I decided to post this, because I think this is such a common problem and these links could be helpful to people. I think in the end, I have it in my head to just feel balanced when running and avoid reaching with the front leg. The force to propel you forward should be a pushing force, and not a pulling force.
I think most people agree on the "right" form, but how to get there isn't as clear. ChiRunning, from what I've read, focuses more on consciously changing form and ingraining the form through practice, focusing on a few elements at a time. Others use drills or minimal footwear or hill running or core strengthening or .... I've looked into this several times but never really managed to change my form drastically. While on one of these form "kicks" I found this video pretty interesting. Whether or not you're into barefoot running, the posture drills are an interesting way to get a sense of balance. I found jumping up and down with my hands straight up before the run had the effect of 1) making the neighbors think I'm crazy and 2) "locking in" a faster stride rate.
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Some people are rather down on the idea of consciously trying to modify your running form. One suggestion I've read is to try and run more quietly - without thinking particularly about how you're achieving it. The other thing is to try and get your stride rate up, again without thinking about your form.
Great post, Run. Thanks for all the links. The first time I ever thought about this was when an old friend, who was a decent XC runner in the 60's (hadn't run since), told me he discovered he ran best when he leaned a bit forward like he was controlling a fall. Then someone gave me Chi Running, which mentioned the same thing. Since, I've worked on leaning a bit, but not too much. There's more of a mid foot strike instead of a heel strike. I can't say if it's helped or hurt, as the past few years have been a trip through an apocalyptic, uphillish wasteland, but a more mid foot strike underneath the knee, instead of banging the heel and a straightened knee, sure makes sense. I've seen heel-striking explained as a form of braking.
Thanks, Run. Good stuff.
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I never paid attention to my stride rate but I counted it a few times when I got bored while running , and I always got a crazy high number for the pace. a 10min/mile pace has me at 190+. I have 180 at 12min/mile. outside 14min/mile it's closer to 170 than 180 but I never had a problem with that, it's just hard to do a 14min/mile pace at a faster stride rate.
so stride frequency always seemed fine for me. but I did need to change other aspects my running form 1) for swing phase, I made it more gluteus medius dominant - ITB likes that 2) for toe off phase, I made it more like lifting leg instead of excessive push off - calves/achilles like that
I did consciously pay attention initially then it just became natural.
Thanks Gregw, I really liked that video. You are right about the fact that there is a lot of information and opinions out there on how to achieve the correct form. I liked your idea of jumping with hand over head to get a sense of you balance. While in the middle of a run today, I raised my hands high above my head and felt it helped me be more consious of my alignment and balance.
Jimmy, I do like that helpful hint to lean slightly forward and have a controlled fall. I totally can feel that. The only adjustment I made was just to lean the slightest bit more forward, and that seemed to cause everything else to follow.
Cmon2, when I started using the new stride, I could feel that I had much more leverage to push off, and it was tempting to use the calf muscles more for that, but your advice makes sense which is to just lift the knees off the ground more.
I am getting there. Still no reoccurrances of injury. After all, I think that is the most important benefit.
I found this video pretty interesting.
The other thing that that I found interesting from the video was the rhythm exercises. The narrator demonstrated how when you are standing still and running in place bouncing from one foot to the other that at a certain rhythm it feels easy. If you slow the cadense it becomes harder. Why? His explanation was that the act of pushing off of each foot is 50% muscle power and 50% spring or recoil action. But, when you slow the rhythm down more muscle power is required and less spring action is happening.
I have practiced this when I have been running. I have looked for a rhythm and a bounce that feels easy and this definitely occurs at a higher cadence.
This whole overstriding issue has been a big revelation to me. I am now injury free since I adjusted my stride. I am very psyched about it. I am also still getting used to this new stride. I don't think about it too much, except to just feel a rhythm and to make sure I am leaning a bit more into my stride.
I am finding that with the adjusted stride that I feel faster. I feel that I have more strength to push off. Because my knee is more flexed during the plant, I am finding that I get more pushoff by straightening my knee through the follow through and I can feel my toe off more.
I have noticed that for particular paces, the perceived effort is less, but the HR is the same. So, I thought that was interesting.
The video is about bare foot running and how it encourages a better stride. I have a regular pair of trainers and feel they do not prevent me from doing a proper stride, but I also now have a pair of nike free 3.0s that I have been mixing in there. Just running in them once a week, I have found them helpful in encouraging this new stride. I am still not quite used to the nikes, because I am use to more cushioning still.
I found this photo of the Kenyans running form. I had always heard that you are supposed to run "Tall", hips forwards, etc. But, you can see that the kenyans have a slight forward lean, but the lean is from their ankles, not their hips.
The fifth runner happens to be right at the foot plant stage and you can see that his foot is planted right under his center of gravity. I liked Jimmys description that this running form is like a controlled fall, and that gravity is sort of helping you propell forward.
you are not necessarily "supposed" to run "tall" - some runners say you should be better off running "not tall". so opinions on this differ. maybe individual.
those kenyans are running 4-5min/mile pace... why would they run like someone at 11min/mile pace?
personally, I always found the wording of "controlled fall", "falling forward", etc. confusing. does not help me at all.
those kenyans are running 4-5min/mile pace... why would they run like someone at 11min/mile pace?
Yes, I totally agree. I did not mean to imply that everyone should run just like the kenyans with the same exact lean angle.
I added the pics of the kenyans because when I saw pictures from the Boston Marathon, the lean is something that stuck out to me. I saw a picture of Ryan Hall running among the Kenyans and I noticed that Ryan Hall did not have the same lean angle as the kenyans. Ryan Hall seemed more upright. Yet, he is a great runner too.
So, it certainly is an individual thing.
I also would expect that if one is running at a slower pace, the angle of the lean would probably be less. I know that at the pace I usually run, the angle is barely foreward, but compared to the stride I was using before, it was an improvement.
I actually don't like the term "lean", because that implies bending at the waist for some people. Tilt might be a better term. The pivot point for the tilt would be at the ankles.