Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On Form and Overstriding

One of the the things I have learned in having a couple of running video analyses is that I am a pronounced heel striker.  Very pronounced.  Now, for years, I haven't thought much of it, other than that is the way I run, so that is it.  But, after reading various blog posts (such as this one at Runblogger.com and JG here) Runners World this month, I have given much more thought about footstriking as a means to avoid  injury.  For those who aren't keeping assiduous track, over last several years I have had ITB issues, PFS, and a couple of foot injuries.  I am not looking to change my form to get faster; I think I can get faster by training.  No, I am interested in form as a means to reduce stress and thus reduce injury.

I am not a proponent of barefoot running and forefoot striking.  I think that is just too radical of a change and one I could never fully implement.  If that means I am doomed to never compete at the highest level, so be it.  Instead, one thing every form guru seems to agree on is that overstriding is bad.  Overstriding -- landing too far ahead of your body -- is bad form in that it translates force through the leg, ankle and knee and it causes deceleration as it brakes your forward momentum.  Thus, no matter where you land on your foot overstriding is too be avoided.  And overstriding is most common in heel strikers.

I run at the gym on a treadmill next to a mirror so I can see my form.  It is not always pretty (nor is the sight of my sweaty torso trudging along.  And I need a haircut too.)   In my last several workouts, I have been trying to change my stride.  Shorten it up.  Land more under my body, and less reaching for it out front.  I have noticed several things.  First, I have to turn my feet over faster.  More steps.  Second, I run more straight up and down and less forward lean.  Third, it is harder on my feet.  I don't know if that is better or worse -- I just feel the pounding more in my feet rather than in my quads and glutes, aka, butt.  That maybe because my feet have been getting a free ride at the expense of hips and glutes, but I do feel it.  Oh, and as I get tired, I lapse back into longer strides.

Will any of this really change the way I run?  I am not sure. I do not seem to tire as quickly, but I have no real data to support that.  And I seem to be running slower, at least at first. 

Does anyone have a clues or cues that they look for in avoiding overstriding?  I have mainly been going by how hard I land on my feet.  I sort of feel like I am starting to pull my landing leg back to land flat on my foot.  I imagine the forward sweep of my leg as if it turned on a wheel or as if my knee rotates 360 degrees and my legs spun like hands on a clock. Myfeet now land now at about 6 o'clock rather than 4 or 5 o'clock.  It feels different, almost like I am hopping, or running with bent knees and not stretching out.

If any anyone has similar experiences or images or thoughts, I'd love to hear them so I can watch for them.


  1. I wish I had more to offer. The only thing my coach always told me was to do bursts of 60 second shorter strides during my runs. He said doing this every 8-10 minutes would help to keep me from overstriding. ?! :) Seems to work for me.

  2. I'm going to be attending a form class here soon and I've been wearing VFF's for awhile now, just walking around to help build up lower leg strength. Its my hope that as I get back into running I'll be able to combine the knowledge I receive at the form class with my experience in the VFF's to modify my form and reduce injury. I'll keep you posted on the results.

  3. Good post. I was just analyzing my gait during today's run regarding this very issue. Normally, I have fairly good mechanics. I'm a midfoot striker with a relaxed, easy stride and have had very few injuries over the years. However, I strained my hammy Sunday and I know exactly why. When I get tired - like you - I start overstriding and stretching my legs to pull my body along. No-No! So, today, I was reminding myself, as I tired, to keep the strides short, keep the legs under, and turn over quicker. You have to turn the legs more times to go the same distance but each stride pulls less weight/takes less impact so, I believe, its a net plus.

    Good luck!

  4. On the point of sore feet, that could be due to how your foot is landing (reacting with the ground/belt) with the new form. Maybe you're landing more flat-footed? Also, after looking at the Geb video on the Larson blog, some foot pronation might help cushion the landing. So perhaps a change of shoes.

    For cues, have you read the hip extension post on Steve Magness's blog? Once you've initiated extension, just let the next part of the stride happen. The landing should be close to vertically under the knee.

  5. Sometimes I try to pay a lot of attention to my form and 'get it right' so that I can be efficient, but then after a little bit of concentration I inevitably zone into my music or whatever else is going in around me and go back to my sloppy ways.

  6. Hey there! They say that those who have learned to run as adults are usually heal strikers. I'm not sure if that is true in your case, but there are running drills out there aimed at getting people to become more of a mid foot striker rather then a heal striker. Now, you will feel kind of stupid, but doing butt kicks, skips, high knees, etc will help you to get a feel for what a correct foot strike is supposed to feel like. I'm a midfoot striker, but I still do these drills! Good luck!

  7. I'm no help with this. I tried to change how I was walking and ended up looking better but getting very sore because I was using muscles in ways I hadn't before. Slowly I've reverted back to my old ways. I hope you figure out what works for you so you can avoide injury.

  8. Wish I had some kind of advice for you. I've worked with my form these past few months, I take much shorter strides now, and strike more towards my forefoot. I think playing around with my running shoes has helped too.


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