As a Doctor of Physical Therapy with advanced education specifically in running biomechanics, I see some common running mistakes that contribute to low back pain, knee pain and/or ankle pain. The three that I see most often are overstriding, bounce, and compliance.
Overstriding is the most detrimental of these three common mistakes and typically has the most negative effect on the musculoskeletal system. An overstride is when the foot contacts the ground too far in front of the hip. When this phenomenon occurs there is an increase in ground reaction forces which are transmitted up from the ground and into the limb during landing. A braking effect also occurs with overstriding. When an overstride occurs there is a horizontal friction force which not only slows the runner but causes shearing of the runner’s joints. When a runner is overstriding it should be the first remediation to improve running biomechanics.
The next common error is closely related to overstriding. Too much bounce is commonly seen in runners who overstride. Bounce is when there is unnecessary vertical displacement of the runner, or in other words too much movement up and down. Bounce can create a pounding like sound when listening to the runner. To no surprise this also creates an increase in ground reaction forces. When there is too much bounce the ground is quite literally beating up the lower limbs.
The last common mistake is when a runner is overly compliant. Have you ever seen Gumby run? Probably not, but just picture it. There is way too much movement. When the runner’s foot strikes the ground the runner’s trunk, hips, and pelvis are moving all over the place. While this may be optimal for dancing, it is not ideal for running. We want the runner to be stable. When a runner is too compliant it is usually an indication of poor trunk, pelvis, and hip control. Weakness of the core musculature and hips are also often present when a runner is overly compliant.
These mistakes are commonly the cause of pain in the lower body and low back. So what do you do? Find a physical therapist who has advanced training in running biomechanics. Soon enough it will feel like you are running on the clouds.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.