As discussed in the last blog post, normal running mechanics is comprised of four distinct phases. During any one of the phases, form breaks in running can occur. Overstriding is one of the form breaks that can occur during the initial contact phase. It is associated with an increased risk of pain and injuries in runners.
What is Overstriding?
Overstriding is when a runner’s foot lands on the ground ahead of their pelvis (hips) during initial contact. Remember a proper stride occurs when your weight bearing leg is directly under your pelvis upon striking the ground. Keeping your leg lined up with the hips can prevent injury and allow your body to properly perform a running stride.
Overstriding has many causes, but some are more common than others. In order to prevent overstriding, we must first understand what leads to an abnormal stride.
Common Causes of Overstriding
There are many different things that can lead to overstriding while running. If not corrected, an overuse injury will likely be the result. Contributing factors that can lead to overstriding include poor posture, weak core and glute muscles, and decreased balance and coordination.
Common examples of poor posture include running with your head forward, slumping your shoulders, or having an excessive arch in your lower back. If you have one or several of these problems, it usually means you don’t have the strength or control to maintain your body position during your run.
Typically, this is related to muscle imbalances that a physical therapist can help you identify and correct. Overstriding to compensate for the fact that your “stable base” is not in an optimal position may result in an increase in your risk for injury.
Weak Core and Glutes
The core, or the torso for our purposes, and the glutes (buttocks) also play a role in your running stride. If your core is weak, it may not be able to fully support your stride. If your glutes are weak, they can’t do their job of bringing your leg back to aide in propulsion.
In addition, your legs won’t get the proper boost necessary for your stride, thus causing you to reach your leg too far forward to make up for the fact that your glutes aren’t doing their job. Runners that do this also will tend to arch and overuse their lower back muscles while running.
While it is helpful to do exercises to strengthen your core and glutes, it is important to remember that you need exercises that simulate running in order to get stronger in your running position. Laying down on your back and doing a “bridge” is not going to help your strengthen your glutes and core in the way that you use them when running.
You don’t run lying down with your knees positioned higher than your head! Step-ups and single leg deadlifts will help you strengthen your legs, glutes, and trunk in the way that you are trying to use them during running. We will discuss these exercises and more in a future blog posting.
Bad Balance and Coordination
A final common cause of overstriding while running is poor balance and coordination. If a person is having difficulty standing on one leg without feeling unsteady, they may have trouble running with correct form. It is impossible to land on one leg and keep your balance if you can’t even stand on one leg without additional movement involved!
It is important to remember that coordination and balance are not natural; they are learned skills. Most people are not automatically good at controlling their movements. It takes practice to learn the body awareness needed to appropriately perform a multi-step or plyometric (jumping) exercise.
Our brains are really good at finding new ways to do things when a movement is difficult. Even if you don’t mean to cheat, it’s very likely that you are, especially as the level of difficulty increases!
This is where a physical therapist can be helpful; they are trained movement professionals that will be able to pinpoint where your problem areas are, so you can be more aware of them during your workouts.
How to Address the Problem
If you’ve been told you overstride or are not sure, you could benefit from a running analysis by a qualified professional. Most importantly, engage in a running-specific strengthening program. It’s important to find a way to correct these issues to prevent future injury. Call In Motion Physical Therapy to set up your running analysis or strengthening program today!
- Lysholm, J. and Wiklander, J. Injuries in runners. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 1987;15(2): 168–171. doi: 10.1177/036354658701500213.
- Novacheck, Tom F. The Biomechanics of Running. Gait & Posture. 1998;7(1):77-95. doi:10.1016/s0966-6362(97)00038 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0966636297000386?via%3Dihub
- Heiderscheit, Bryan C., et al. Effects of Step Rate Manipulation on Joint Mechanics during Running. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011;43(2): 296 – 302. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3181ebedf4.
- Ready 2 Run. Three Possible Reasons Why You Can’t Stop Overstriding? http://ready2runtraining.blogspot.com/2015/02/3-possible-reasons-why-you-cant-stop.html.