TOE RUNNERS Vs HEEL RUNNERS and all things GAIT
Over the last 2 news posts we have talked about stress fractures, what they are and how training volumes can influence these injuries. Another thing that has been circulating in the research is how our running gait impacts the amount of force that our bones absorb during the act of running. The two main findings of the research have been that toe running and a quicker step rate are the most protective factors whilst running.
Toe running and mid foot running have been proven to create less shock for the bones to absorb as your foot hits the ground. This has been particularly studied through the tibia or shin bone. Toe and mid foot running requires more muscle control of the ankle, which reduces impact through the shin bone. Whereas most of the ground force in heel runners is taken through the bones on the lower leg.
Another suggested change to running gait has been to alter cadence which is a runner’s step rate per minute. It has been shown that increasing cadence by taking shorter steps reduces the amount of time spent on one leg and therefor reduces the shock through the shin and shearing forces as weight is transferred from left to right. Changing running pace is made possible in the everyday runner by using audio cues. A quick way to do this is to match your running playlist’s beats per minute to your desired steps per minute and run to the beat!
There is little study that has investigated how effective changing gait can actually be on reducing a runner’s risk to stress fracture. This is largely because stress fractures pose a multifactorial risk profile which is hard to study. There has also been no study looking into whether changing running gait or pace increases the likelihood of soft tissue injury.
Therefore, there is a lot more to learn! So for now, be aware of the factors that impact boney stress, be mindful of running volumes and if you are still experiencing pain whilst running – see your local physio for some advice!
Written by Physio Plus Footscray Physiotherapist, Monique Rowlands.