Third Piece: Gait Retraining
Conventional wisdom holds that the running stride you’re born with is the one you’re stuck with. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Research has shown that particular running-related overuse injuries can be overcome by making key modifications to one’s stride. One of the leaders in this field of research is Irene Davis, Ph.D., P.T., and director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Delaware. I interviewed Davis a couple of times in connection with magazine articles and book chapters, and in the process I got some information that proved useful to me personally.
The most common injury-causing stride flaw is overstriding, or landing heel first with your foot well ahead of your body’s center of gravity, instead of landing flat-footed with your foot directly underneath your head. A simple way to correct this flaw is to tilt your entire body very slightly forward from the ankles (not the waist!) as you run, as though you’re constantly falling forward or running downhill. This little tweak all but forces your foot to land flatter and closer to your center of gravity. Correcting the overstriding flaw makes it easier to maintain proper stability in your hips and pelvis on impact and thereby reduces the likelihood of injuries including iliotibial band friction syndrome and runner’s knee.
Gait changes don’t come easily, but with patience and persistence you can make them successfully. Tilting forward felt unnatural to me at first, and I had to think about it with every step lest I revert back to familiar ways, but I kept at it and today my new and improved stride is as automatic as my old stride once was.