Avoid the seven deadly sins of running technique

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Do you know any runners who have had a running-related injury? The easier question to answer is, do you know any runners who have not had a running injury? According to the authors below, in any given year, up to 70 percent of runners sustain an injury serious enough to stop them from running. [ref]

In triathlon, excluding accidents of course, I think running is the sport that is hardest on your body. Your body takes a lot of pounding during a run. That is why you hear over and over again from the experts things like:
– hard/easy days
– don’t increase more than 10% per week

Elite runners have coaches that analyze their gait and make adjustments. If you’re serious about staying injury-free:
– research it
– read books
– go to a good running store that can video and computer-analyze angles of pronation/supination to fit you in the right shoe
– replace your running shoes often
– if you run every day, have two pairs of shoes and switch off every other day
– practice form running

Avoid the seven deadly sins of running techniqueToward the the first two, I just saw a new book worth checking out. It’s called Running Well. In the following article about the book, reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, the authors explain some of the ways to avoid running injuries.

According to running expert Sam Murphy, [running] problems are often caused by errors in training and technique and can be avoided. Simple mistakes, including wearing the wrong shoes, increasing mileage too quickly, or not varying sessions enough, are responsible for 60 percent of running injuries.

“By learning the difference between training and straining and honing your technique, you can minimize the risk of injury and the training setbacks it inevitably brings,” Murphy says.

In the upcoming Running Well (Human Kinetics, November 2008), Murphy teams up with physiotherapist Sarah Connors to explain what she calls the seven deadly sins of running technique. To prevent injury, Murphy says runners should avoid these practices:

Overstriding. Trying to make a stride too big puts the muscles in an inefficient lengthened position, causing the foot to land in front of the knee and creating a braking effect. “Overstriding usually happens when you are trying too hard to run faster,” Murphy explains.

Wasteful movement. Runners waste energy by incorporating too much up-and-down movement instead of focusing on forward motion. “A common cause of a bobbing action is lifting the knees too high up in front and pushing off the toes,” Murphy says. A very short stride can also be to blame.

Overpronation. Overpronation results from pushing off on a foot with a collapsed arch. This foot position puts extra stress on the muscles supporting the arch, which in turn pull on their attachments to the inside of the shin bone.

Sitting in the bucket. Also referred to as sitting on the hips, this happens when the pelvis tilts forward and the hips push back. “This posture reduces the power of the hip extensors, stresses the lower back, and shortens your stride,” Murphy says. “This posture is responsible for a lot of runners’ back and hip problems.”

Excessive supination. Oversupination occurs when the foot doesn’t roll in enough and remains on the outside edge. This action reduces the foot’s ability to absorb the shock of impact and increases the risk of stress fractures, especially along the outside edge of the foot and shin.

Poor hip drive. Relying too much on the quads and hip flexors rather than using the hamstrings and gluteals to extend the hips reduces the power and length of the stride. Strengthening glutes and hamstrings can improve running technique.

Hip drop (Trendelenburg gait). A Trendelenburg gait occurs when the pelvis shifts too far from side to side. “As a result of weak adductors and abductors, the hip of the swing leg drops and the hip of the stance leg pops out to the side because the muscles aren’t able to hold the pelvis level,” Murphy explains.