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Running Technique and Injuries (Part 1)

February 28, 2017

Running technique is often overlooked during rehab as people return to sports. A poor running technique can cause stress fracture, shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome, meniscal tears, tendonitis or patellofemoral dysfunction and pain. Most of these injuries are due to the excessive forces that go through the wrong parts of the body when we run incorrectly.

What is a poor running technique?

Heavily striking the ground with your heel, knees drifting together, short stride length, not lifting the knees or heel high enough and a slumped upper body can all hinder running performance and lead to injury.  

How does a poor technique cause injuries?

A heavy heel strike can cause excessive force to be transferred through the joint. This is because the leg is straight when the heel hits the ground first. This causes the momentum of the foot hitting the ground to be absorbed through the joints. When the knee is bent and the mid or fore foot strikes the ground first, the joints are slightly flexed and absorbs the pressures just like a spring. This helps to absorb the forces through the muscles. Think about how you run without shoes on, Automatically you will land on you forefoot. Take you shoes off and have a quick run down the hall!

 

Meniscal injuries, patellofemoral pain, tendonitis, shin splints and stress fracture can all occur when the knees drift together. This looking like the knee are rubbing one another as your legs pass by each other.

 

When the knees drift together, a small rotation occurs in the knee joint. This causes excessive strain on the meniscus leading to a tear. It also stretches the iliotibial band, irritating it – this can lead to iliotibial band syndrome or patellofemoral joint dysfunction and pain.

 

The drifting in of the knees will also flatten out the arch of the foot causing another list of injuries. These include plantarfascitis, Achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, stress fractures, ankle impingement and muscle strains. The rolling in of the foot stretches and places more stress onto the smaller muscles around the ankle cause muscle strains, tendinopathy, stress fractures or in rare cases compartment syndrome.

 

When your knees and heel shuffle along and are not lifted high enough, this shortens your stride length. This shorted stride length will increase the amount of steps required to run the same distance. With a smaller stride length there is a smaller ranges of joint movement through the joints. This means that the stress placed onto the joint is concentrated onto a smaller tissue area – resulting in more concentrated damage. This coupled with an increase step rate will further injure those tissues as the stress is enlarged with the increased steps.  

A slumped upper body can decrease the efficiency of breathing as less oxygen enters the body. Take a deep breath while slumped and compare it to when you take a deep breath standing up nice and tall. This will fatigue the body quicker and lead to a poor running style. The altered weight distribution through the foot due to slumping forward can further exacerbate the injuries mentioned above.

 

In the next article I will discuss an optimal running technique. Exercise to help improve it and increase performance. These techniques can be used in any sport where running is involved and will have a major effect on most leg and low back sports injuries.