Serious runners are known for doing whatever it takes to improve their performance – from modifying their diets to altering sleep schedules to using special gear. For those who are very competitive, these changes can make a difference that matters in their times and help lead to PRs.
While recreational or casual runners may not adopt this same level of investment, they certainly can benefit from tweaks in their routine as well. Running is a high-impact sport that is very tough on the body, and can present challenges with cumulative volume over time. You don’t have to take on exorbitant expenses to thrive in running – all you really need is a good pair of shoes – but you can optimize your experience and maximize your longevity with smart practices.
One of those is gait analysis, which can range from simple to sophisticated, and which often can be performed at a specialty running retailer or at a sports medicine doctor’s office. To run well, proper form is paramount, and abundant information exists about everything from how you should position your head down to your feet.
Gait analysis is a careful scrutiny of how you place your feet on the ground when running, stride after stride. Although only one part of the entire kinetic chain, your feet are critical in determining your overall form. For runners, gait analysis is typically conducted on a treadmill, using human observation and cameras, sensors or markers.
The ultimate purpose of gait analysis is to identify compensations or inefficiencies in your form, such as overpronation and oversupination, that can compromise performance and potentially lead to injury. This type of examination also can identify if you are a heel striker, and is helpful in selecting running shoes, many of which are designed to address common compensations.
Four Phases of Gait Analysis
Regular runners should take advantage of gait analysis in order to perfect their form and maximize efficiency. One easy way to begin this process is to use the dual stride trace technology on the Octane Fitness Zero Runner.
The Zero Runner is not a treadmill, but replicates natural running motion without any impact. Independent hip and knee joints let you run naturally, but eliminate the repetitive pounding you experience outside or on a treadmill.
Dual stride tracing on the Zero Runner lets you monitor your stride’s length and the height of your heel kick via a stride trace profile for each leg. You can track consistency in stride length, and watch your heel kick, which determines the amount of activation of the glutes and hamstrings. Plus, you can see if imbalances exist between the right and left legs, or if your stride changes as you fatigue.
With this stride data, not only can you run more consistently, but you are able to maintain stronger form throughout runs. Ultimately, this helps to improve running efficiency and avoid injuries.
Keeping an eye on your cadence on the Zero Runner also can make you a more efficient runner. The ideal stride rate is actually 180 steps per minute, which amounts to frequent, short strides. This reduces the amount of stress on your body by decreasing the amount of time you’re in contact with the ground, thereby lowering impact. By taking 180 steps per minute, you also prevent overstriding, which subjects the body to more stress.
Simply jog and count one leg’s steps for one minute, and aim for 90. Because many people don’t run at this rate, it may take time to adjust your stride, but ultimately, it’s a healthier cadence.
While this may seem like work, this valuable knowledge can help you run stronger and longer.