Running on your toes
Do you have to run on your toes? No. The concept of running on your toes is not a new concept but it definitely isn’t the best thing for everyone.
Toe, forefoot or shod running came into vogue with the release of the minimalist running shoes. What is the main message that is being missed? Why do people use the term running on your toes? If you run on your toes more often than not, you strike underneath your body. It doesn’t matter so much as to whether it is a forefoot, midfoot or a rear foot strike, it’s more important where it strikes. The best way to improve your foot strike is through drills looking at lean and pelvic position, and muscular retraining to encourage changes in your body position rather than just ‘running on your toes’.
Should you lean forward when you’re running? Yes, but where should you lean from?
Now this is the item where I see the most misconception. Most people take this into their own hands and assume that they should be leaning forward from their hips. Right? Wrong. Hip lean decreases use of the glutes, increases the use of quads and hip flexors and generally puts more force through the knees. So if not the hips, where should you lean from? The ankle. This skill can be difficult to master, but can greatly change your running. Mastering the forward lean drill (see below) allows this to become a familiar feeling to transfer to your running. So what is the benefit of the forward lean? If you are leaning backwards then gravity is working against you, you tend to overstride, braking as you strike, and put more force through the knees. Leaning forward through your ankles allows gravity to push you forward, you have greater inclination to use your calves and glutes for power and keeping your core and pelvis engaged protecting your joints.
Arm propulsion/chest leading
Do you need to stick out your chest or keep your shoulders back when running? No, it’s not a change that should be specifically focused on.
Although you don’t want to let your shoulders fall forward or hunch you also don’t want to hold your shoulders back and puff up your chest. If you’re leaning forward from your hips when running, you’re going to have to work really hard to keep your upper body upright. But if your legs and pelvis are doing what they are supposed to, what your shoulders are doing is less important. Are you sensing a theme here? The pelvic position is where most things stem from. Most people will hold their shoulders tight and use their arms as a form of propulsion, almost as if they are trying to pull themselves through the air. So what should be happening? Your shoulders and arms should stay relatively relaxed (not up around your ears), keeping your arms moving forwards and backwards with approximately a 90 degree bend at the elbow.
So how can you accomplish these things? Getting some drills into your running program will help with running position and getting those key muscles engaged to help with your efficiency and power.
Forwards Lean Drill
Standing with feet hip width apart, tuck your pelvis and lean forward from your ankles to your balance point. Bring yourself back to the starting position without breaking at the hips. Once you have found your balance point, move your arms forward and backwards without breaking at the hips.
Feet together, hands relaxed by your side. Keeping your knees straight but not locked out, push through your ankles and jump up and down. The aim is to work on the propulsion and shock absorption through your calves. Another way to achieve this is through skipping without bringing your knees into the movement.
Single Leg Drill
Transfer your weight onto your right leg. Tuck your pelvis under (without letting your back and thoracic spine sink or flex), bring your left leg up to 90 degrees of hip flexion, lean forward from the ankle without breaking at the hip. Step the left leg forward, not trying to gain distance but coming up strong onto the left leg to repeat the process.
All of these drills can be found in video form on Youtube under Lissome Physiotherapy and Technique Studios. Progressing these drills and understanding the position of the pelvis is a great way to assist with improving efficiency, decreasing injury risk and improving power. Happy Running!
Alissa has an extensive background in sport, competing at an international level for her age in Triathlon. Alissa graduated from Griffith University on the Gold Coast in 2009 with a Bachelor of Exercise Science/Bachelor of Physiotherapy and since then has had experience with athletes, hospitals, community health, rehabilitation and chronic disease.