Best Running Form Varies by Individual

Jan 15, 2018

Matt Schultz

by Matt Schultz
PT, DPT, OCS S. Gilbert Clinic

This time of year, many of us are training for long distance marathons, Spartan Races, and triathlons. During this training, injuries and nagging pain may occur. Many people will turn to a running friend for “expert” advice instead of a licensed physical therapist. The advice may be that they used to run with a heel-strike and they switched to mid-foot running and no longer have pain. Please take this type of advice with extreme caution.
Mid-foot running, heel-strike pattern, chi-running, and barefoot running all have athletes that sing their praises because these runners found the right fit for them. But, an athlete should be careful when switching their running form on a whim without a healthcare professional’s recommendation. These changes in movement patterns become ingrained into the brain and, if they are incorrect, can be difficult to reverse and may cause additional problems.
After analyzing the running form of thousands of runners, we as healthcare practitioners have been unable to conclude what is the best running form for all athletes. The truth lies in the fact that every runner’s perfect form will vary by the individual. For example, mid-foot running increases the stress at the ankle, and heel-strike running increases the stress to the anterior knee. Therefore, changing from heel-strike to mid-foot running may have worked for your friend with anterior knee pain, but could aggravate your Achilles tendonitis.
If pain lasts more than a couple of workouts, it is critical that you are examined by a licensed physical therapist. The physical therapy examination will identify your strengths and limitations. Often, if treated promptly, the athlete can continue training while participating in physical therapy. Based on the athlete’s injury history, current pain, joint range of motion, flexibility, muscle strength, and endurance, their best running form can be determined by an expert at Foothills Physical Therapy.
Treatments such as dry needling, video analysis, cupping, stretching, neuromuscular retraining, and strengthening will likely make this injury a thing of the past and help you to reach your ultimate goal of completing your race in record time. Start the journey toward pain-free running by scheduling an appointment with a licensed physical therapist at Foothills.

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