Running is a natural form of movement that involves segments of the entire body. This includes the arms, upper spine, lower spine, pelvis, lower legs, ankles, feet and even the toes! Each segment plays an important role in the form of running. If there is a deficit in one area, it trickles up or down the chain and can affect other parts of the body. We are one unit that works most efficiently when everything is in synchronization.
Mechanically, running involves a stance, swing and float phase. What does this mean exactly? Well first, a stance phase means that one leg is in contact with the ground. On the contrary, the opposing leg is in the swing phase, meaning that the leg is in the air getting ready to make contact with the ground. We are constantly switching from swing to stance while we are running. So what about the float phase?
The float phase only pertains to running; we do not have a float phase in walking. For a very short period of time as one leg is switching from one to another, there is a fraction of a second when both legs are in the air. This means that one leg is in the swing phase and one leg is preparing for landing, which is called initial contact. What happens during the trade off between swing and stance phase is what we pay most attention to when evaluating running mechanics.
The amount of informational running tips out within the communities, both medical and recreational, can be overwhelming. What should you listen to? There are several trained professionals (personal trainers, running coaches, Doctors of Physical Therapy) who understand the form of running and know what to look out for regarding energy leaks and muscle weakness that could lead to pain and running discrepancies over time. I would suggest going to a professional that you trust because they have the best interest for you. However, it is also equally important to go to a professional who has specific experience working with runners!
As a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) I like to educate that there is no universal form for optimal running. Each and every person runs differently and that is ok! One person should not replicate another person’s running. As a body analyst and educator my job is to analyze each individual’s run and advise based on those findings. The goal is to optimize his or her form which reduces the likelihood of injury and allows for a more efficient run.
A Doctor of Physical Therapy is clinically trained to understand overall body mechanics in any functional form so we can specifically educate and provide individualized treatments to each person. If you wish to have your running evaluated by a DPT, we will not only evaluate your running mechanics, but we can treat and advise you with specific movements to enhance your body so you can become a stronger and more efficient runner. Who wouldn’t want that? To have an individualized and personalized plan, please consult with your local Doctor of Physical Therapy.
With all above considered, it is recommended for the average runner to be professionally evaluated! On average, runners demonstrate common weaknesses and energy leaks that impact his or her run. Overall, research has shown that certain recommendations have helped minimize these weaknesses and have enhanced the runner’s performance while reducing the risk of injury.