The Third P of Running Form: Placement (Part 1)

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 2:35 PM

This is the most complicated of all of the "P's", so I am going to do this post in 2 separate articles.  

Placement can refer to how your foot hits the ground, how your body reacts to the shock of the full load of your body at midstance (when the peak of weight is placed on your foot and all the way up your body), and the placement of your body when your foot leaves the ground to the time that your next foot lands.

There are 4 kinds of gaits in terms of your feet:

1. A Walking Gait - the gait where you will always have at least 1 foot on the ground at all times, you walk in a heel impact, midstance, and toe-off (unless of course you are tip-toeing, but this is very unnatural and you won't be likely to do it unless you are hiding or sneaking up on someone).

2. A Jogging Gait - This is also referred to as the western running gait, and we have obtained this gait from running in heavy-high platform heel cushioned shoes. In this gait you have basically added some speed and a little jump to the walking gait.  You still have your first point of impact with the ground be the heel; loading with the weight of your body occurs at two points, upon initial impact with the heel and at midstance/peak loading; and a pushing-toe-off through the next stride.  A couple of problems with this gait:

a. in order to strike the ground first with your heel you must overstride and fully extend your knee and dorsiflex your foot.  If you land like this, you have no point of flexion in your joints, thus hyperextending your plantar facia tendion, compressing the cartilege in your knee, and creating a huge spike of impact in your hip in order to stop the shock of the ground from traveling up your body.

b. you also are breaking with each step because the initial impact of your body is ahead of your center of gravity.  In order to maintain speed through your jogging gait after you have just hit the breaks your body needs to re-accelerate and the hamstring must do most of the work in this situation.  This is also a huge waste of energy which will increase the heart rate over the long haul.

c. common injuries occuring from a heel striking gait are plantar facitis, shin splints, IT band syndrome, runners knee, tearing of the maniscus, hamstring overuse injuries, and inflamation of the piriformis muscle (this can lead to problems with the sciatic nerve).  References should go to Ian Adamson and Danny Abshire of Newton Running Co. for much of this information on the problems of a heel striking gait.

Here are 2 videos to show a Jogging (heel striking) Gait both with shoes and without:

In the videos you can see the two points of impact, full extention of the knee and overstriding, and you can even see the shock of weight all the way up the leg to the hip.  Just wish they were longer.  If after seeing this you think you should be a heel striker, please comment on reasons why.  I would love to discuss.

3. A Running Gait - This is the most natural form of running gait and will be discussed as the way that we should run in the next blog post. (more to come)

4. A Sprinting Gait - This gait is achieved by running at a Zone 4 Heart Rate as fast as one can run.  The gait can be maintained for 20 seconds to a minute depending on the athlete's VO2 Max Threshold Capability.  Generally the gait will consist of a Toe/forefoot impact, load on the forefoot to midfoot (not touching whith the heel), and having a forceful pushoff with the toes.  Since the gait cannot be maintained for more than a minute in most cases, in no way is this a long-distance running gait and meant for races not exceeding 400 meters (quarter mile).

This video shows a walking gait, a sprinting gait, and a running gait.  I will get more into the running gait in the next blog post.

That superman thing that Danny does really works, try it sometime. It helps get you into a forward lean and gets you running faster with hardly any more effort if any. He also brushes on cadence here. More to come on that as well.

I apologize for holding out on you this time, but it's necessary to show all the types of running gaits to create a complete understanding of Natural Running.  More to come next week!

Go Faster and Keep Smiling!

Coach Larsen

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