Running Form Matters – What to do if you’re an injury-prone runner

As running race season picks up (hello spring marathons!) and training for triathlon season is ramping up, I’m seeing more and more posts by athletes who are injured and unable to run, missing training time with friends, and not able to race in their goal races. I know this makes the injured runner sad and it makes me sad too.

Why am I sad? Because I know the joy that running brings you and many of these injuries can be prevented so you don’t have to miss out. A while back I talked about smart training progressions and strength training being key to injury prevention. One aspect I failed to mention then (and is also very important) is your running form/technique!

If your training program:

✅ Is smart (balanced with building and recovery periods and without huge jumps in distance or intensity)

✅ You do regular strength training

❓ Yet you still find yourself dealing with aches, pains, “niggles,” or full-on injuries that stop you from running completely

❌ Your run form may be an issue

📷 A single snapshot in time doesn’t represent your run technique. We’ve all seen those race photos where we look awesome, strong and with great form…and then there are the ones we DON’T post on social media! IYKYK!

This first picture is a great snapshot of Minttu running and she looks super strong here with great form! But looking at her overall run form through video analysis at full speed and in slow motion, we identified some causes of why she’s likely experienced multiple injuries throughout her running career. The second picture shows that she tends to overstride, meaning her foot lands out in front of her center of mass. Why is this important? The yellow line in the second picture shows where Minttu’s center of gravity is and the red line shows the direction of the energy absorption as her foot contacts the ground. This is referred to as ground-reaction force. Ideally, we want the foot to land closer to under the pelvis, rather than out in front of it. This foot strike helps to position the body for better shock absorption of that ground-reaction force energy.

In running we want as much energy as possible to help propel us forward. If the ground-reaction force is pushing backward, there is a loss of energy and momentum, with each foot strike, resulting in basically a braking motion with each step. Not only does this backward ground-reaction force make us work harder for our pace, but it also increases the physical stress on the body. That energy absorbed from contact with the ground is transferred up into the bones, muscles and joints in the legs, pelvis and spine. Over time, that repeated energy transfer and absorption in the body may cause pain and may lead to injuries such as stress fractures.

A coach can give you pointers on your run form to improve your technique and help you get faster. But combine the biomechanical gait analysis skills of a doctor of physical therapy and coach into one person, aided by technology, and you get a thorough breakdown of your run form, how your muscle strength and flexibility relates to it, and how all of that is contributing to your injury history and limiting your potential as a runner or triathlete! So if you’re doing strength training designed for running injury prevention and your training progression is smart, but you keep being plagued by pain when running or injuries are keeping you from running, your form may be a cause. Having a professional running gait analysis and implementing the suggestions given can help you solve the problem and keep you running pain-free!

Dr. Jeanne Williams, PT, DPT, OCS
We help endurance athletes (from beginners to pros) train and cross the finish line faster and injury-free!

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