Overstriding, obesity and arthritis

stridingA recent newspaper report suggests a causal link between the rate of “wear and tear” arthritis and the increased number of people who have turned to recreational running as a form of exercise.

Once again, the reporting of scientific research in the mainstream media has jumped to a conclusion that is not quite right.

You need to dig a little deeper into the article to find what’s actually going on.

Dr Vanessa Rice, an exercise physiologist and academic, said exercise alone does not cause joints to wear down, rather poor technique or structural problems with high impact activities like running.

“If you have incorrect technique you’re going to be putting increased stress on the joint and that’s going to cause it to wear out more.”

Dr Rice, who is a runner, has seen countless examples of “very poor technique” at fun runs.

In other words, joint issues are either caused or exacerbated by bad technique. So, just like you can injure yourself with poor form in the weights room, you can injure yourself with poor running technique.

This is something I learned the hard way. I had a recurring problem with Achilles tendonitis. When I ran on a treadmill, under the watchful eye of a physiotherapist, there was an obvious problem. I was striding too far forward, or overstriding.

The result was I was overworking smaller muscles in my lower leg rather than the larger muscles like my gluteals and hamstrings.

Once I corrected my technique, my Achilles issue disappeared.

A recent article at Competitor looked specifically at the issue of overstriding and offered two solutions:

  • Increase your cadence (the number of steps you take to cover a particular distance
  • Gradually begin to reduce the amount of heel cushion in your shoe

I’ve not changed my shoes but I focus on my cadence and ensuring I don’t stride too far forward. If you can, get a friend to video you from the side while you’re running and look at how far forward your feet are as you run.

If they’re way ahead of you then you need to rein them in. This will prevent excessive stress on your knees and lower leg muscles.

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