Okay lets pick up right where we left off! Part 1 covered important mobility and stability concepts for pain-free running, part 2 will dive deep into footwear and running technique!
Let’s start off with footwear. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to shoes. So when trying to figure out how much support your shoes should have, without getting too in depth, you need to determine what kind of arch you have. A simple way to find out is to just look at your feet. If that’s not clear, then you can do the “wet feet” test by stepping in some water and observing your foot print.
If you have a high arch, your foot is often more stable and you’ll need less structural support. This also means that your feet may have a hard time absorbing impact and may need extra cushioning. But if you have high arches and wear shoes that also have a high arch, you’re more likely to develop weakness and poor arch strength because your arch muscles aren’t being used.
If you have a low arch or flat feet, you’ll likely need more support because you have an unstable foot/arch that likes to collapse or fall inward when you run making you more likely to experience plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains. So you’ll want some type of shoe that helps prevent “overpronation,” and offers structural support for your arch. But if you continue to use your shoe as a crutch or quick fix for your lack of arch, you’ll cause the muscles to weaken even further over time, because they simply have to work less.
If you lie somewhere in between, then lucky you! You have a normal foot that is properly aligned with the appropriate amount of pronation and the weight and shock of every step you take is distributed evenly, making it less likely that you’ll experience injuries. So as a general guideline, if you have normal or high arches, you likely need more flexible, minimalist shoes. However if you have flat feet, you likely could benefit from more supportive shoes to help relieve some pain while you get them stronger. However, in either circumstance you need solid arch strength. This can be done by performing these exercises below:
1. Toe yoga: 3 minutes (video 1)
2. Arch Lifts: 3 minutes, hold 5 sec (video 1)
3. Floor sweeps: 3 sets of 15-20 reps (video 2)
Lastly, let’s address running technique. How to be the most efficient because let’s face it, we don’t want to waste any energy if we don’t have to. More efficiency means you’ll get less tired, be able to run further, and have a decreased injury risk. The recommendations below are for your average novice runner, not the more seasoned vet as advanced techniques are often involved more.
Is the correct part of your foot contacting the ground?
In general you should focus on striking the ground with your midfoot. This will make your strides shorter and you’ll land closer to under your center of gravity making your technique more efficient.
Is your arm swing effective?
While looking forward, your hands should disappear below and behind your peripheral vision on each of your backswings. If your arm swing is poor, then it won’t cue a backward-driving leg action (hip extension) or your arms will tend to swing left and right, rotating the torso to maintain balance and diverting energy sideways that could be propelling you forward.
Are you a “bobber”?
You should also aim to propel yourself as horizontally as possible, don’t bob up and down. What do I mean? Well a common method runners use to develop propulsion is the upward thrust. As they toe off, the knee is straightened forcefully, thrusting the body up and forward which wastes a tremendous amount of energy. This up and down method of running, employed to some degree by most runners, is extremely inefficient. Learning to use the glutes to extend the hips and create horizontal propulsion with minimal vertical oscillation will help you run farther and faster.
Are you leaning forward?
Leaning forward while you run can help you become more efficient by creating forward momentum. If you’re leaning too little, you’ll find it’s hard to move your body forward as you fatigue, your legs will have to work harder to push you forward. If, on the other hand, you’re leaning too much, you’ll find it’s difficult to bring your legs forward as you fatigue, they’ll feel like they drag behind you and your hip flexors will have to work harder to pick your feet up.
Running is a great workout, especially while we’re all stuck at home. But it shouldn’t be your only source of exercise. Just like with everything else in this world, it’s all about balance. Make sure you’re doing enough supplemental and accessory work to fill in the gaps running has. If running is your passion, accessory work is KEY. Let’s make sure we’re still healthy and pain free when we’re allowed to get back to our regular choice of exercise. Do this by working on your mobility and strength, choosing the right footwear, and being aware of your technique. Everyone’s needs, choice of footwear, and form will look different, but choose the one that feels best for you and gives you the best results. Happy Running!
This is where we share our expert opinion on hot topics in physical therapy, injury prevention, sports performance, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and sometimes other random thoughts. Enjoy.