When Running Form Matters

As Gabe Stinson, M.S., a certified performance enhancement specialist with Memorial’s SportsCare, found out, even when you help other people improve their fitness, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ve mastered a perfect running form.

“A friend of mine told me about a race series called Tough Mudder, and I was hooked. I signed up for the nearest race and started training. For the first month or so, I ran pain free,” Stinson said.

But then the problems began. “My right knee started to hurt with every run. I backed off my training and rested, which helped. But the pain came back, and I knew it was time to see an athletic trainer.

“In just one session, my trainer saw that my calves, especially my right one, were tight. This threw off my running form that led to my knee pain. The advice? Stretch before and after each run to maintain proper running form.”

Stories like Gabe’s are fairly common according to Amanda Wilson, PT, DPT, ATC, also of Memorial’s SportsCare.

As the athletic trainer who treated Gabe, Wilson first looks for two common running faults:

  1. The way a runner’s foot lands. Wilson explains, “A runner needs to land in the middle to front part of their foot and not on the heel. If you land on the heel, there is a greater risk for shin splints, or pain in the lower part of the leg between the knee and the ankle. This also leads to stress fractures.”
  2.  Lack of hip strength, or hip weakness. “When a runner does not push straight off and up from the top of their foot, they can hit their other leg. Or if they become knock-kneed while running, their foot will turn out and they’ll experience pain while running,” continued Wilson.

Just as there are two common running faults, Wilson has two key prevention tips.

  1. Proper shoe fit. Wilson says foot type should help determine shoe type. If you have a flat foot, look for a more rigid, high arch support running shoe. If you have a high arch, or more neutral foot, then look for a more cushioned shoe, with moderate arch support.
  2. Increase core hip strength. Core muscles and hip flexors work together to stabilize and support the body. As Wilson explains, “If one side of your hip drops when running, you need to strength your core and your balance.” Some good exercises for this are the same exercises and stretching techniques demonstrated here in an earlier post.


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