Common Mistakes Runners Make With Their Form and How They Can Cause Injuries
It’s true that every able-bodied individual can run. We’ve been running since we were young, but it’s not as easy and straight forward as one might think. Proper form is important and is in fact, the first tip we covered on Weav Run’s guide to staying injury-free. Without knowing the correct technique, you’ll increase the likelihood of pain in your joints and muscles, or even incur serious injuries.
Not sure what you’re doing wrong? Here are the most common mistakes when focusing on form.
Taking big strides
It’s a common misconception that runners have to take big strides to increase speed. The bigger steps you take, the faster you get there, right? It’s actually the opposite because of something called cadence. In running jargon, cadence is the number of steps you take during a minute of running. The more times your feet hit the ground, the faster you’ll actually be running.
However, over striding is one of the most common mistakes newbie runners make. Physical therapist Michael Conlon described over striding as “landing out in front of one’s center of mass instead of directly below”. Often, this results in a runner landing heel first, which is a major no-no in running. Being a heel striker is not only inefficient, but it also causes more impact on the bones and joints. It can lead to calf pain and shin splints and can also result in patellofemoral syndrome or runner’s knee, which is characterized by pain in the front of the knee. If you experience any of these symptoms, the steps you’re taking might be too big.
The art of running is not all about leg strength and endurance. The upper body is equally important, especially in terms of form. Slouching is often the result of too much swinging of the arms side to side or keeping them at chest level. The correct technique is to maintain your bent arms slightly above the hips and forward. Otherwise, you’ll build up tension in your shoulders and neck. Keep your shoulders relaxed and maybe shake your arms loose every once in a while.
Leading with the upper body also puts your center of gravity out of balance, like when you over stride. As mentioned, it can not only cause injury but it can stop you from achieving your top speed. It was actually one of the running mistakes that soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo was making before Usain Bolt corrected him 10 years ago. The fastest man in the world told the Portuguese international to lead with his feet rather than with his chest so that he would get faster. This is how Ronaldo developed his incredible speed and impeccable form. Ronaldo is currently one of the highest earning soccer players on the planet, and arguably one of the best in the world right now, which just goes to show how much Bolt’s advice paid off. It might do the same for your running, too so breakdown your sequence and see if you’re doing anything incorrect.
You may not be slouching when you’re running downhill, but you might be leaning forward too much. It’s a common issue especially when gravity is pulling the body down. However, elite runner Tina Muir advises that it’s okay to lean forward but only slightly. “Think about peering over the edge of a cliff and staying in control,” the 2:36 marathoner says. Of course, if you tilt too much, you might fall off a hypothetical cliff. The key is to lean from your hips instead of your shoulders (again, avoid slouching), keep your core engaged, and take short strides. Other than runner’s knee, you might be setting yourself up for iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome. The pain is felt on the sides of the knee, which sometimes radiates to the thigh or the hip.
Just like any athlete, runners are also prone to injuries. If you want to make running a habit, these are the common mistakes that you should avoid when focusing on the correct form.