Runners: How to Fix Your Form

Work with a physical therapist to prevent injury

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Contributor: Amanda Gordon, MPT

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When you run or walk, you hold your body a certain way, and each foot strikes the ground in a certain pattern. A person’s unique way of moving their body forward, or their gait, has a real impact on runners.

For example, if you turn your foot inward excessively when you run, take very short or long strides, or use wide arm movements, it can drain your energy and cause injuries. This is especially true as you repeat these motions over and over again.

For anyone who runs regularly, a close look at your gait can help you avoid injury and improve your efficiency. If you run marathons, adjusting to a more efficient gait can even drop your time by two minutes.

Runner, know yourself

It’s always easy to observe other runners, who you may notice favoring one leg or turning one foot. It’s another thing altogether to try to adjust your own form. It’s just hard to see your own patterns. You can learn about your own gait with help from a physical therapist. He or she can perform what’s called “a gait analysis.”

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A gait analysis may involve using video and other tests to assess your body mechanics. The goal is to help you make changes to improve your running efficiency. Doing this will help you determine the cause of any existing injuries while also preventing future injury.

What’s involved with gait analysis

A physical therapist assesses the following during an analysis:

• Running history
• Training goals
• Foot placement
Shoe wear
• Strength and flexibility
• Heel strike
• Arm swing
• Hip, knee and foot mechanics

What you learn from the assessment

After a full assessment, your physical therapist will show you strength and flexibility exercises. He or she will explain any personal body mechanics issues. You’ll learn ways to change or improve your gait pattern so that you are more efficient. All this lowers your chance of injury.

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If you experience an injury from running during the analysis, your physical therapist will look at your running style and foot strike and find out if your shoe wear or a muscle imbalance are contributing.

So rather than guessing on your own how to better hold your body when you run, you can get help from a simple assessment.

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