When looking at someone who wants to improve their running, thoughts are many, over the years, as progress has been made in understanding how we move and run - seems it may not be as easy as just giving someone a new exercise or modifying how someone looks when they run.
Could you run better than you are now? If you just observe how someone runs you may feel that you want to change something immediately, something doesn’t look right, the arm swing maybe, the way the foot lands on the floor, the stride length. The options are many but changing how someone looks when they run may hinder performance rather than help.
The body has different systems and structures to keep you balanced. From your eyes, inner ear, your nervous system as well as muscles and joints. Changing an arm position so it looks better or stride length, could help someone, but may not be successful in making the runner more efficient. There is some evidence to show that runners do self-optimise running position.
A recent research study looking at how people run from observation only by different running coaches - it didn’t bring back very good results. You would have thought that the coaches would be suggesting the same improvements to improve running economy, but this didn’t happen.
How about foot position, changing from heel running to midfoot or barefoot running, to be more efficient or less injury prone. This was big a few years ago, and quite a few runners went out and bought flat running shoes, because it seemed everyone else was doing it. It worked for some but didn’t take long before we were seeing some different injuries for other runners. Changing the foot position may not change the load through the foot, it just changes where it happens. Some research studies have shown though, that a different load through the knee joint from changing running gait or foot position may help with running injuries. Therefore, some runners may be getting injured because of different stresses on parts of the feet or legs that they are not used to having the load through.
So, would there be a better way of assessing the runner?
To make better informed choices on changing running gait (if required) It would be a better to complete some further assessments to provide a bigger picture. This could include strength, balance, and mobility assessments to your history of running, what type of running you do, any injuries, training routine and maybe the pressure of your daily job or being able to get all your required training in on a busy weekly schedule. Challenges and compromises often have to be made to achieve a realistic outcome with a working week.