RUNNING GAIT MODIFICATIONS: STEP WIDTH
RUNNING GAIT MODIFICATION #2 – STEP WIDTH
In our previous blog on running gait modifications (https://theinjuryclinic.com.au/running-gait-cadence/), we described how altering your cadence will change your loading profile, making certain tissues more or less susceptible to injury. We learnt that the load does not just disappear. You move it, change it & re-organise it. If not done carefully, gradually, and for the right reasons, modifications to running technique can increase your risk of running-related injury.
We also learnt that running is a complex task, and any modifications need to be catered to the individual. A one size fits all approach is not the way to go when our bodies operate in their own complex and individual way.
Step width modification is another alteration to running gait that has the potential to reduce running-related injuries and improve running efficiency in some individuals. However, like any running gait modification, it presents some challenges both practically and when considering changes to our loading profile.
A narrow step width whilst running has been linked to a number of running-related injuries, including:
- Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints)
- Plantar Fasciopathy
- Bony Stress Reactions
- Patellofemoral Pain
- Ilio-tibial Band Syndrome.
This association tends to be the result of the loading pattern seen when running with a narrow step width. i.e. greater hip adduction, greater/rapid pronation of the ankle, greater lateral pelvic drop.
The image below demonstrates a pelvic drop in which the hip abductors are not working sufficiently to stabilise the pelvis,. This has an impact on the kinetic chain and results in a foot strike more toward the midline of the body. It is a common factor contributing to a narrow step width, but certainly not the only one. Again, we are all individuals, whilst many of us may demonstrate a narrow step width whilst running, the factors contributing to it are likely to differ.
LINK TO RUNNING-RELATED INJURY
The above demonstration of a pelvic drop looks simple doesn’t it? But in reality, individuals with a narrow step width have developed adverse motor strategies for a reason. Most likely they will need to work with their physio to uncover the contributing factors and address them accordingly (which takes time). Often it is not as simple as weak hip abductors (gluteals), but instead a complex combination motor patterning, strength and control deficits that are present through the trunk, pelvis, hips and feet. It’s worth considering that these deficits are not always on the symptomatic side, we are more often seeing that it is the non-symptomatic side that needs the attention.
So, how does a change in step width alter the loads that could be contributing to injury?
|Injury||Contributing Factors||Changes to Load with an Increase in Step Width|
|Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (Shin Splints)||
|Tibialis Posterior Tendinopathy||
|5th Metatarsal/Foot Stress Reactions||
|Iliotibial-band Syndrome (ITB syndrome)||
|Patello-femoral joint pain (PFP)||
More research is required to determine the effects of altering step width and most effective strategies to do so, however the early evidence is encouraging. One study demonstrated that a narrower stride width (displaying a cross-over gait) created 13% greater stress on the IT band than the ‘preferred’ width. This gives us a great insight into the effect of small adjustments to our gait. Imagine 13% less stress with each step you take!
So once you have worked with your physio to analyse your gait and loading profile, the challenge of developing the strength and motor patterning to make changes begins! (remember this takes time). Make these changes for the right reasons, because there is no such thing as the perfect gait! It’s the right gait for the right individual.
If you’re currently experiencing a running-related injury, or have been contemplating changing your running technique…come and see us. Let us work with you to achieve the gains you’re after!