Every runner knows that running gait is an important part of a good run. But not all runners actually know what this is. Improper running gait can affect almost all parts of your body, from your ankles to your knees and even to the soles of your feet.
Inappropriate running gait can cause overuse injuries and leg pain after running that can jeopardize your future workouts, so it's best to avoid this from happening altogether.
Luckily for you, learning about proper running gait will also improve the way you run, so let's dive in to find out more about it.
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What is Running Gait?
Running gait is essentially your running technique or your running form. Gait is defined as the pattern of limb movement while running and moving.
Your running stride is more than just putting one foot in front of the other. It includes your entire body movement and its interaction with the ground, air and gravity. When you run, several contact points are made between your body and the ground in a cyclic movement broken down into several phases of running.
Running is a cyclical process, which begins when you push off the ground with one foot, and ends when that same foot touches down. As humans, our gait patterns can be divided into 3 main phases of running:
- The loading or the stance phase of running - it starts when your foot hits the ground with its initial contact and continues till the body moves over to carry the weight to the foot at the front.
- The propulsion phase or the swing phase - as your body is propelled forward and the foot at the back lifts off the ground, until it touches down at the front is referred to as the swing phase.
- Float phase - during the swing phase, there is a momentary sub-phase where neither foot is touching the ground, and this is referred to as the float stage.
Each of these phases are dependent upon one another. If one phase is poorly executed, the one's that follow would be equally inefficient, leading to more difficulty in gaining pace. The manner in which the interchange occurs between the stance and swing phases demonstrates your phases of the running gait cycle.
Why should you pay attention to your running gait?
If you're a serious runner that aims to get better at your performance, it's essential to conduct a running gait analysis in order to better understand your running form. It will allow you to break down the different components of movement, such as the stride length and the placement of foot contact, to better comprehend if any of these functions are executed poorly.
For instance, in your stance phase, the primary point of contact with the ground should be towards the front of your foot and not the heel. If your point of contact is with the hind part of the foot, your running gait is poor and should be immediately corrected in order to prevent injuries the likes of runner’s knee, and experiencing leg pain after running.
Hence a thorough analysis of the running form would not only help correct common mistakes that can prevent injuries, but it can also help a runner achieve their optimal state by understanding the mechanics of running.
How to improve running gait?
Several measures can be taken to improve your running performance.
- Wear proper running shoes. In addition to being a good fit, your running shoes should have adequate cushioning to absorb the force from your impact with the ground in order to prevent injuries and foot pain after running.
- Using the running gait analysis, determine your current foot strike, which is the way your foot touches the ground as you run. Proper foot strike helps absorb the shock from the impact and determines how fast you can run.
- While forefoot running is considered the best form with the least amount of impact and strain on your muscles, it should be aligned with your hip extension in order to prevent over-stride while running. If you're over-striding, that means you have exceeded your optimal stride, which leads to ineffective running.
- Maintain your posture, as incorrect posture such as slouching makes your muscles overwork and strain themselves, resulting in poor running gait. So, ensure you hold your shoulders back in a relaxed position and look straight ahead with your chin up as you run. Do not bend forwards at the waist.
- Practice deep breathing as this ensures more oxygen reaches your muscles resulting in optimum performance.
Tips for leg recovery after running
While proper running gait can go a long way in preventing injuries and muscle strains, all runners experience foot and leg pain after running from time to time. The following are some of the best leg recovery tips to follow after running in order to return to your form at the earliest.
1. Use compression gear
The SPRYNG active compression wraps help alleviate pain from your sore muscles by aiding blood circulation. The SPRYNG compression tool can reduce swelling caused by muscle strain enabling your body to recover faster.
2. Stretch properly after a run
Do not be in a rush to head home immediately after a run. Ensure to stretch out your muscles to enable the lactic acids that are built up to get flushed into the bloodstream.
Adequate hydration is required to replenish the fluids that are lost during the run. This would help prevent those awful leg cramps that happen at night after you've engaged in a long run.
4. Take a warm bath with Epsom salt
Taking a warm bath will not only help you relax, but the Epsom salt will help the body remove toxins built up in the muscles.
To find our more read our guide to long distance running recovery