Improving Your Running Posture May Help You Prevent Injury

A new study suggests adjusting how much you lean forward may be key to your stride.


BY ELIZABETH MILLARD |

  • If you’re experiencing overuse injuries, such as knee issues or ankle pain, you might be leaning too far forward while running, new research suggests.
  • To improve your posture, add exercises such as a hip flexor stretch, glute bridge, upper trapezius stretch, and lumbar mobilisation stretch (upward-facing dog yoga pose a.k.a. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) into your daily routine.

If you’re starting to see overuse injuries like knee issues or ankle pain flare up while running, that could be a wake-up call to adjust your body mechanics—and that doesn’t mean only your foot strike and stride length. According to a new study in the journal Human Movement Science, your angle of forward lean when running could be a major factor for performance as well.

“Your angle of forward lean when running could be a major factor for performance as well.”

Researchers recruited 23 young runners between the ages of 18 and 23 and had them do three running trials with different trunk positions: a 10-, 20-, and 30-degree angle of flexion. They found that the more a runner leaned forward, the bigger impact it had on stride length, ground reaction, and joint movement.

Over time, those could add up as factors for injury, according to lead author Anna Warrener, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver.

Although the research had limitations in terms of participant number and age range, it does shed light on the way your posture can affect your stride, she told Runner’s World.

“The aim of the research wasn’t to suggest there’s a ‘perfect form’ that everyone should try to achieve, because that doesn’t exist,” she said. “There’s a wide variation in terms of how people run, but it’s helpful to see that if you play around with how much you lean, it could have significant effects on how you run in general.”

For example, she added, leaning forward more has a tendency to shorten stride length and increase stride frequency. In other words, the greater angle led to a smaller range of motion and potential over-stride, Warrener said. The overuse injury potential there would be to the hip, which would have to work harder to accommodate those shorter strides, she added.

That also tends to increase the amount of ground reaction force. For example, the largest amount of lean at 30 degrees boosted reaction loading by 29 percent.

“This finding about shorter stride actually surprised us because we thought if you lean forward, your leg would extend further to support you, but the opposite is true,” she said. “It’s a good indication that if you’re having issues like knee problems or hip pain, you have to look beyond the joints themselves and at what’s happening overall. Each link in the chain matters.”

To work on improving your overall posture, adding exercises such as a hip flexor stretch, glute bridge, upper trapezius stretch, and lumbar mobilisation stretch (upward-facing dog yoga pose a.k.a. Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) into your daily routine can help.

READ MORE ON: injury-prevention posture stride

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