A buzzword in the running community for the past 10 years. It has been labeled the primary cause of inefficient technique and the root of all running injuries. Some “run gurus” believe the key to running faster, more economical and without injury, is simply to shorten one’s stride and/or increase their cadence – ie. prevent over-striding. Sounds simple enough, right? But in my opinion, the term “over-striding” is a misrepresentation of the problem and the proposed solutions may not be the best approach to improving running mechanics.
Over-striding is defined (roughly speaking) as any time a foot strike occurs in front of a person’s projected center of mass (a point in space somewhere around your belly button). An example of over-striding is shown below:
The foot strike is occurring in front of this skeleton’s projected center of mass (vertical dotted line). Theoretically, over-striding can lead to increased “braking forces” and less efficient running. So in order to prevent this, we should shorten our stride so that our foot strikes immediately below or even behind our center of mass… right? This sounds like a rational solution, but there are a few problems with this approach:
- It is physically impossible to have our feet land at/behind our center of mass and continue to move forward with an upright posture (you WILL end up flat on your face!!)
- This doesn’t take into account anatomical differences in runners – people with longer femurs are obviously going to have a greater “reach” in front of them then runners with shorter femurs
- Stride length is not the root of the problem
What I see happening isn’t necessarily that runner’s are “reaching” or “over-striding.” I think their feet land pretty much where they should, rather it is the orientation of a person’s center of mass that gives the perception of over-striding.
Most runners use their everyday posture when they are running. For the average weekend warrior this means, the classic Mon-Fri, 9-5 spent at a desk/workstation posture – shoulders forward, head forward, slouched through the mid back. In order to compensate for all those structures moving forward the hips also displace forwards to provide support, see below:
Notice how the vertical line (representing the center of mass) moves behind the hip joint in the three non-ideal postures. This is what gives the perception that the front part of the stride is too long or that over-striding is taking place. The hip joint may be further forward than it should be and so foot contact occurs further in front of the center of mass as a result!
Rather than trying to improve running technique by manipulating foot and leg position, we should be trying to manipulate the person’s posture. When running, try to utilize an upright posture where you lead from the bottom of your chest/rib cage. Perceive having your chest press slightly in front of your hips. This will bring your center of mass forward and limit “over-striding.”
By Tyler Bredschneider RMT
Registered Massage Therapist , elite Triathlete.