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Motion Analysis Running Form

2 Posts tagged with the motion tag


During the initial interview with a client a standard question that I use is "how do you feel about your running form, do you think you have good form, or do you think you look like Ikabod Crane"?  "Do you strike the ground with your heel first, whole foot, or toes"?  I ask these questions in order to determine what direction the rest of the consultation should take.  If there is a suspicion that faulty running form might be contributing to the injury or poor performance the examination will need to include a slow motion video analysis of the running form.  If the feeling is that the client has good form, this suggests that the manner of running is unlikely contributing to the injury or poor performance and that the consultation should investigate the individuals training program or their anatomical structure.   



In response to my questions what I hear most often is, "I don't know".  On face value it is somewhat surprising that so many runners don't know whether they have good running form or not.  A Physical Therapist colleague Doug Kelsey has described this quick answer I don't know as "It pops out of a client's mouth like a piece of toast out of a toaster".  Doug suggests that when they answer "I don't know" comes so quickly, it is quite likely they do know, and they're just buying some time to figure out what they feel and how to say it.  Of course some clients truly don't have a clue whether they have good or poor running form/technique. 



I believe a majority of runners do have some awareness of how they feel about their running form/technique.  Now whether the self awareness about their running form is accurate or not is another question.  In my experience some clients would best be described as having a false positive opinion of their running form, that is, they think they have good running form, but really don't.  Of course we could debate for quite some time what is good running form.  Despite years of study, volumes of publications and the practical experience of the best coaches there continues to be controversy regarding what is ideal running form/technique.  Currently, delineating what is correct running form is more art than science, and it is based more on theory than evidence. 



There continues to be a pervading philosophy that it is dangerous to tamper with a runner's natural stride and running form.  I believe this opinion was based on research showing that the most economical running occurs when the runner was allowed to choose his own strike length as opposed to running at a stride length which was longer or shorter than his/her preferred stride length.  You can still find articles today that will tell you that a runner's form will develop naturally over time.  This concept is contrary to every other sport, where it is expected that coaches will teach the correct manner to perform the skill.  It is expected that a novice basketball player will be taught the fundamental movements to shoot a basketball, or to assume a defensive stance.  It is expected that a novice golfer receive instruction and feedback in the proper form and technique of a golf swing.  It would be considered illogical to believe a novice golfer will develop ideal golf swing on his own over time.  Too often it is assumed that novice runner knows how to run correctly.  It is true that a runner's form develops over time, but that does not mean that it will be ideal running form. 



There is a growing consensus that striving to eliminate awkward running form is an excellent method of becoming a more efficient injury free runner.  The theory is and there is some evidence that learning to run with better form leads to more economical distance running.  The theory is and there is some evidence that learning to run with better form a runner is less likely to experience an injury.  



Given that a runner may have a false positive image of their running form, and that having better running form should lead to more economical injury free running, the first challenge is for a self coached runner is to obtain a valid image of their running form.  Visual feedback with photos and video recordings can verify self image or provide evidence of an individuals running form.  Over the past 30 years video technology has progressed to make it relatively easy to obtain a visual data.  Even in-expensive digital cameras often have a video setting, and often cell phones can record video data.  Once digital video data is uploaded to a computer playback applications can vary the speed of the playback between normal speeds to slow speed or frame by frame. 



Given the video data of an individual's running form the next challenge is assessing the data in order to determine whether the running form is good or faulty.  Sometimes faults are so obvious it is easy to identify.  Other times subtle but significant faults require analysis by an expert.  Once faults are identified a runner can endeavor to eliminate the faults



Even though it sounds clichéd to say "what gets measured gets done".  If the goal is to improve running form, measurement of running form needs to occur, and recording of running form should be stored.  A common procedure is to measure workouts and race times.  The concept of measuring and recording the manner of running (running form/technique) with visual data makes sense, but this is not a common procedure.  If a runner measures and assesses their running form/technique, they can quickly and accurately answer the question "how do you feel about your running form"?



When asked how they feel about their running form, some individuals accurately recognize they have bad form.  These individuals often express the opinion that "I don't need to see my running form/style I know it's bad".  There is some truth to this belief.  A great deal of enjoyment occurs from running for exercise even though the running form/technique looks like Ikabod Crane.  However, faulty running technique can contribute to the development of an injury, in which case it becomes worthwhile to obtain visual data about running form/technique. 



Damien Howell MS, PT, OCS -



709 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: running, triathlon, injury, drills, motion, analysis, fast, slow, form, style


Often the aim of treatment of a running injury is to decrease the symptoms with medication and palliative therapeutic intervention. A brief internet search for treatment of running injuries will reveal a plethora of options. These include heat/cold modalities, electrotherapeutic modalities, ultrasound modalities, stretching and strengthening exercises, exercise equipment, massage, yoga, palliates, food supplements, magnets, medications, certain shoes, shoe inserts, active stretching and many more. However, if improper mechanics are one of the causes of the running injury, once the patient returns to running, the problem is likely to reoccur.



While athletes and health care professionals use a variety of strategies to address abnormal mechanics that can include strengthening and stretching exercises as well as equipment changes (shoes, orthotics, braces and tape), it needs to be recognized that this is just the first step. Such interventions may be necessary, but this is seldom sufficient. The next step is to figure out how to utilize improved mechanics, improved alignment and muscle balance (strength and flexibility) when running. The final step is to run with better form/technique/style.



A runner's form, technique and style can have a powerful influence on the development of an injury and/or the treatment of an injury. This belief has good face validity, but a scientist needs to ask what is the evidence supporting this belief. In fact some coaches have historically believed that running form/technique/style is relatively automatic and unchangeable. Therefore we must ask if there is any evidence that running technique/form/style contributes to injuries. Is there any evidence that, if an individual can change their running technique/form/style that the changes will alleviate a running injury?



Recent evidence from several research centers has shown that specific injuries are related to specific gait mechanics (Novacheck TF 1988, Williams TM 2006). Irene Davis has shown that individuals with stress fractures in their lower leg tend to land harder when each foot hits the ground (Davis, I 2006). If these faulty gait mechanics can be identified and feedback provided to the person, perhaps the individual can consciously modify the way they walk/run thereby alleviating the injury.



Researchers at the University of Delaware provided injured runners with real time visual feedback of shock and impact forces in the lower leg with accelerometers, and the runners were able to decrease the shock and impact by 25% to 50%, by consciously changing their gait pattern, during one treatment session (Crowell H 2005). Follow up studies demonstrated lower extremity loading was reduced with real time visual feedback of shock and impact forces and that these changes were maintained at one month follow up (Davis, I 2007). An accelerometer device which measures shock was connected to a TV monitor displayed in real time illustrated how hard the individual was striking the ground. The runners were instructed to change how hard they struck the ground, and the immediate feedback helped the runner determine if his/her strategy was correct.



A similar study was conducted with runners suffering chronic knee pain. They were given visual feedback of the alignment and movement of their hips, knees and lower legs. Individuals with knee pain frequently the thigh rotates inward, the knees knock and feet pronate (McClay I 1999 - Davis I 2007). Again TV monitors provided feedback to the injured runners regarding whether their thighs were rotating inward, their knees were knocking or their feet were pronating. They were encouraged to consciously not let their thighs rotate inward, their knees to knock or their feet to pronate. By keeping their knees apart, not letting them collapse inward, they soon were able to eliminate the knee pain. They eliminated their excessive pronation without changing shoes without using shoe inserts or orthotics. The runners in this study were followed up one month later and it was found that they had retained the lessons on the improvements that they had learned.



The only intervention in these preliminary studies was gait re-training and relative rest from running. No stretching or strengthening exercises and no orthotics or other modalities were used. Changing how an individual ran, alleviated the injury and allowed the runners to return to running.



These preliminary investigations used a very specific protocol in terms of visual and auditory feedback, and also the frequency of training sessions. More investigation is needed to determine what type of feedback and what amount of feedback results in the most efficient learning of a more ideal gait pattern. Irene Davis, the lead investigator in these studies, has said most athletes do not have access to the kind of feedback equipment used in these studies, but that the same techniques can be used without the equipment. Individuals with knee pain can do well to run on treadmill facing a mirror, to get feedback about the alignment of the knees. There should be a space between the knees; the knees should not kiss each other when running. To determine if you hit the ground too hard, listen to footsteps and try to soften the foot strike. She also said that enlisting the help of a physical therapist, who is trained in gait analysis and gait re-training, is beneficial.



I have submitted a case series of 30 runners with shin pain to a peer reviewed journal. Sixty percent of those runners of the runners the only intervention was a brief period of relative rest, and gait re-training to learn to shorten their stride and avoid striking the ground with the heel first. Forty percent of the runners used shoe inserts, shoe adjustments and exercise in addition to gait re-training. All 30 runners were able to return to symptom free running.



Unfortunately, there is a bit of disconnect between many health care professionals belief and understanding of running injuries and their evaluation and treatment of running injuries. I think most healthcare professionals would agree how a runner runs has a great deal to do with the development of a running injury. If a runner is running with poor form or technique, it is likely they will get injured. When evaluating an injured runner, most healthcare professionals do not observe the injured runner as they run. The standard examination includes measuring the flexibility (range of motion), strength, skeletal alignment and wear of the shoes, but does not include observing the runner as they run. If the healthcare professional does not look at how the injured runner runs, it is highly unlikely they will include gait re-training as part of the intervention.



By analyzing a runner's form/technique/style and abnormal mechanics, movements can be identified, and this can be a very powerful diagnostic tool and making it a very powerful intervention. This approach requires the injured runner to have an appreciation of what ideal or good running form should look like, and what his/her running form looks/sounds like. Even the most experienced coaches and sports medicine experts will agree that analyzing someone's gait is enhanced tremendously if slow motion video is available. Slow motion video enhances the clarity and accuracy of the analysis.





The picture above was obtained from a video recording. The photo on the left demonstrates abnormalities of the trunk leaning towards the left, a twisting of the spine, and excessive outward bowing of the left knee. The photo on the right demonstrates a more normal alignment and movement. In this example, the traditional treatment might include strengthening exercises, a knee brace and medication. But after traditional treatment, the final step is to re-learn how to run with symmetry of movement by using gait re-training.



If you are injured and have a suspicion that faulty running technique may be contributing to the injury get someone to analyze your running form/technique/style. If are starting to run again after you have been injured, strive to run with symmetry and good form/style/technique.



Damien Howell MS, PT, OCS






1,156 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: running, injury, technique, economy, motion, analysis, fast, slow, stride, form

Damien Howell

Damien Howell

Member since: Feb 27, 2008

Disscussion of the manner which you run affects your performance and occurance of injuries

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