How your running stride width could be killing your progress!
Updated: Apr 17
From the perspective of a Sports Therapist that runs...
Hello! I'm Luke, sports therapist at ZEN Anatomy Sports Therapy, I used to exercise my competitiveness by racing motocross in my youth, but as I've got a little older I now like to push myself by racing on foot. A few years ago, all I wanted to do was run further and further on more and more challenging terrain, but after struggling with training time commitments and ongoing repetitive niggly injuries, I have decided to go back to my routes of trying to go faster by focussing on middle distance running races. My current target is to bring my 10km time down to sub 40 minutes. I've given myself a year to complete this challenge and my first recorded 10km in August 2021 was 48 minutes, so I've got a way to go!
Being a sports therapist and having had the lucky opportunity to work with some incredibly inspiring and talented athletes, I've thought a lot about the mechanics of running and how I can improve my form, technique, running economy and ultimately become a quicker and fitter athlete.
Something I've particularly enjoyed researching and testing is the effect that your running form- specifically your 'running stride width' can have on injuries.
When did you last check your stride width?
Your running stride width is something that you'll wish you'd known about before you got injured!
We often take our running form for granted, and if you have read an article or watched a video on Running gait you'll often find that most observations are taken from the frontal movement plane, i.e from the side; but how often do you consider what your body should be doing in the sagittal view i.e from the front or rearview?
Problem #1 - Stride width too wide.
Some runners find themselves running too wide which causes unwanted sideways movement and rocking from side to side. The issue with this stride type is that when running, we are essentially trying to move forwards from one foot to the other in the most effective way possible, so running with a super-wide stride width is just an uneconomical way of running.
"Running with a narrow stride width is associated with elevated mechanical stresses on the tibia, increase in outer hip musculature forces and lateral ankle sprain injuries" – Kilgore et al. 2020
Problem #2 - Stride width too narrow.
This is something I've battled with a lot personally. Running with a narrow stride width can cause your left and right feet to overlap slightly, and the easiest way of recognising this in your running style is noticing when you have scuff marks on the inside of your shins from where your trainers catch the back of the opposite ankles.
Runners that have a narrow stride width often suffer from varying 'shin splint' conditions such as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) which is an inflammatory response to the layer of connective tissue (periosteum) that surrounds bone- in this case, the tibia/ shin bone and the tendon that connects the deeper calf muscle known as soleus to the tibia.
Surprisingly, many hip and ankle problems are also often linked to a narrow stride width too, but it's something that can be worked on with guidance and perseverance.
Optimising your stride width.
Much like the story of goldilocks and the three bears, you need to find the stride width that is just right for you. This can be worked on with a bit of trial and error in your runs and a good gait analysis- which ZEN Anatomy Sports Therapy can help you with... The most important thing is being aware that your stride width can work with you or against you.
Add a hint of strength training.
If you are still struggling after a while of gait retraining, then hopefully you'll be aware that strengthening your body (outside of running) is another option that can have a huge benefit to your overall athletic performance. These benefits include- increased bone density, increased muscle force production and a decreased injury risk.
This means that if you have a really narrow stride width and you suffer from some of the problems mentioned above, you may have an underlying strength issue causing the legs to overlap and ultimately cause problems. With a tailor-made strength training plan, these areas of weakness can be targeted to make you a stronger, more efficient runner!
If you made it this far, then hopefully you found this blog post topic useful. If you believe that getting a gait analysis or strength training plan could transform your running for the better, then be sure to click here and book yourself an appointment either in person at one of the ZEN Anatomy Sports Therapy clinic locations or virtually (if you live a little further away). Share this blog post with someone you think could benefit from reading it, and if you think they could benefit but won't read it all the way through, send them this video summary from the ZEN Anatomy Instagram page instead, and give it a like whilst you're at it :)