Have you ever wondered if you are running “correctly”? Is pain limiting your distance, time, or affecting your long term goals when you run? If so, it may be important to look at the different phases in your running cycle to help address these issues.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no one way to run correctly, but there may be one that is more efficient or safer for you based on factors such as age, previous injuries, and goals that you have set out for yourself. For example, if you suffer from hip pain when you run, or have osteoarthritis in your knee, it may be beneficial to look at your initial contact to toe-off (absorption phase) to help with load management of these joints. Performing a biomechanical assessment can help determine what changes in the running cycle, temporary or permanent, may be necessary to help manage these acute or chronic conditions in order to keep you moving without causing further harm.
Running can be broken down into stance phase, when the foot is on the ground, and swing phase, when the foot is in the air. Stride length is measured from initial contact of the foot, through the stance and swing phase, until initial contact of the same foot. Step length is the length between initial contact of the one foot to initial contact of the other foot. Cadence is the number of steps you take per minute. Understanding these terms is important to know when you are running, as modifying parts of the running cycle may help improve efficiency or reduce risk of injury. For example, by increasing a runner’s cadence, you can help decrease their stride and step length, which may be beneficial for runners who don’t have sufficient hip extension (see figure 1, take off and swing phase). This in turn can help prevent irritation to the hip joint.
Figure 1- Running cycle, stages are in relation to right foot