How does over-striding slow you down?

Over-striding is a common technical flaw I see in runners and is often associated with injury. In past articles, we've discussed the research that suggests over-striding can contribute to various injuries particularly at the hip and knee. However, today I'd like to take a look at how over-striding can be detrimental to your speed, before discussing some ways to rectify this issue.

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1. Delay of next step - If you're over-striding so the foot lands way out in front of your body (as shown by the red line above), then the whole body has to transfer over the foot before you're in a position where you're able to push off the forefoot and into your next stride. This takes time and whilst we're talking split seconds per stride, multiply that time by the number of steps you take in a long distance race and cumulatively you've lost a lot of time to over-striding.

2. Direction of force - Regardless of whether you're heel striking or forefoot/ midfoot striking, if you're landing and loading way out in front, the foot landing exerts braking force. Known as ground reaction forces, they will be going in the wrong direction (backwards rather than forwards). Just like when a shovel digs in the ground, your foot will be acting like a brake every time you hit the surface. The goal is to land as close to underneath your body as possible to reduce the negative impact of these forces.

3) Low cadence - If you're over-striding, it's very likely that your cadence (number of steps you take per minute) is low and therefore you're spending a lot of time air-born between strides. Not only would you be experiencing high levels of braking force upon landing which will result in long lengths of time with your feet in contact with the floor absorbing these forces (as discussed in point 2 above), you will also struggle to hit a comfortable cadence that allows for good running economy. Exactly what you don't want if speed is your goal.

So what is the answer and how do we overcome over-striding and run faster?

There are of course many pieces to the puzzle but an essential part of eradicating over-striding is higher cadence. A faster turnover will encourage you to land your feet underneath your body (where the green line is placed above). This will allow you to be in a better position to push off into the next stride quicker, as well as reducing the braking forces.

How do you measure your cadence?

Next time you're on a run (or on the treadmill where you can set the speed, which can be very useful), pick either your left or right foot and count how many times that foot strikes the ground in a 30 second period. Multiply that number by 4 and you have your running cadence for that pace. A good cadence to aim for is 180. Please note there is not one ideal number for everyone, however 170-180 is a good starting point and I encourage all my athletes to run at this rate or above. To measure your progress it's a good idea to count and record your cadence on a regular basis.

By Marc Brown