Since I’ve moved to Victoria I’ve seen a lot of runners, and a lot of running-related injuries. Some injuries are more acute (a rolled ankle, or a sprained ligament), but most are due to overuse (long standing knee pain, hip pain that comes on after a few km’s). I also get a lot of questions about what running shoes to wear; with so many choices out there it’s no wonder it’s difficult to choose!
I always recommend coming in for a running gait analysis to examine all problem areas that may lead to those overuse injuries. There are a few common issues and that I see in many patients, and today I wanted to share them below.
Quantified as steps per minute, running cadence has been linked in the literature for treating running-related injuries. Increasing cadence puts you less at risk of “overstriding”, resulting in less braking forces throughout your gait cycle. It also makes you more efficient. Running at a higher cadence can also lower your vertical bounce height with each step, help reduce the work your legs need to do to propel you forward, and reduce your ground contact time. It can also help you run faster!
All too often, I see patients running at too low of a cadence. Typically, the optimal range for cadence is 170-190 steps per minute, with the “sweet spot” to be at around 180.
Rearfoot/forefoot strike pattern
Many of us have heard over the years to never run with a rearfoot (heel-first) strike pattern, as it can increase our risk of injury. That’s not necessarily correct! Running heel-first doesn’t increase the number of injuries that we see in clinic, but it can change the type of injuries that we see. Running heel-first can increase the work that the front of our hips and legs need to do, and if you have shin pain/knee pain/front hip pain, this might be one of the things that we might change in your running gait. However, if you are not experiencing pain when you run heel-first, we might not focus on changing your strike pattern. Instead, we might take a look at the running shoes you are wearing instead.
This one’s a tough one, as we all have our favourite running shoes that we’ve stuck with for years. From a treatment point of view, we might also give different recommendations for different types of injuries. Lots of cushion in our shoes can decrease the tolerance of our foot muscles, reduce our running cadence, and increase the stress on the front of our legs and hips. For the most part, slowly transitioning to a shoe with less cushion can help with lots of those annoying overuse injuries, but a proper assessment should be done to make sure that switching shoes is the right move for you.
If you feel like you would like to tackle that nagging injury impacting your workout or training, a running gait analysis can greatly help in assessing the root cause, and set up a plan to get you on track right away.