Should you change your running form?

Running is just one of those sports that you can pick up at any point in your life.  All it really requires is a new pair of sneakers and usually a goal to finish your first 5k.  There are races every weekend all over the country which inspires people to search for the next goal race. Typically this increases the running mileage and the chance for small injuries to start.  Running is a fantastic way to stay heart healthy and manage your weight so as a PT I want to help people continue with this endeavor and stay injury free.

There has been a lot of talk about foot strike in recent years.  Do you know how your foot strikes the ground when you run?  The simplest way to find out is to have someone take a video of you running.  Do you land heel first with the front of your foot off the ground?  Or do you land with your whole foot on the ground (midfoot)?  Or do you land on just the front of the foot with your heel of the ground?

Most often, people land with their heel first.  I would like to make the case to change from heel strike to midfoot strike to help prevent injury.  Research has shown that heel striking causes an increase in ground reaction force.  What does this mean?  When you land on your heel, your body (ankles, knees, hips, and back) has to absorb more force than if you were to land on your midfoot.  Repeat this with every stride = repetitive stress to your joints.  

Okay so how do you make the change?  Well it has to be VERY gradual and best done over 3-6 month time period (or even longer).  It probably took me over a year to switch.  If you go for a 30 minute run, try to perform 6 intervals of 30 seconds where you consciously try to land with the ball of your foot first.  You are using different muscles so they can get fatigued quickly.  Once this gets easy increase your midfoot strike time by 10% for the next run.  Continue to increase gradually as your muscles get better at performing the new form. 

If you try to make the change and it just doesn’t feel right, it may be time to have a running gait analysis done.  This is the best way to have your running form looked at and improved on.  Apple Therapy offers running gait analysis by Christine Shaw DPT, USATF certified coach and elite runner.  Check out this link to learn more about it http://www.appletherapy.com/runninggaitlab.html