Running patterns are chosen spontaneously at a young age. Depending on your goals, changing your pattern may improve your runs.

A natural ability that most individuals are capable of, but some of us avoid. Whether you run, jog or are just thinking about starting, keep in mind that running is a technique that has to be learned and that can usually be improved upon. It is a trained skill, just like throwing a football or ice-skating.

Some have a natural ability to run well biomechanically, while others may have to learn new running patterns in order to perform this kinematic activity correctly. Optimal running form also depends on body type, goals such as speed and endurance and type of terrain.

In general, there are three different types of running patterns. The patterns are based upon which part of the foot strikes the ground first during the run cycle. The patterns are: hind-foot strikers (the heel strikes the ground first), mid-foot strikers (the middle part of the foot strikes the ground first) and fore- foot strikers (the toe area of the foot strikes first).

Most people are hind-foot strikers, a smaller percentage are mid-foot strikers and even fewer are fore-foot strikers. Your running pattern is often chosen spontaneously when you first learn how to run. The first learned pattern is generally the one you will follow for the rest of your life.

It is possible to change your running pattern by training in one of the other forms of striking pattern. However, just adopting an alternative running pattern alone does not mean you will become a better, more efficient runner. Everyone’s body is different. Each body is adapted to run and function in a certain way.

Running can be the cause of prob- lems if you choose to switch from one pattern to another too suddenly. Your body has adapted and become accustomed to the forces and body mechanics required for your unique pattern. For example, changing too quickly from a rear-foot to a fore-foot pattern would place even the most experienced runners in jeopardy of injury.

If a runner asks a health care practitioner about altering running patterns, it’s time for a candid discussion about the reasons for the change to ensure that it is safe to perform. What are the reasons for the change? Have they consulted with a running coach? Do they have the proper shoes for the new pattern?

Once an individual decides to alter their running pattern, it’s best to recommend gradual, progressive and long-term changes in order to minimize the likelihood of pain and injury.

First, set a goal. For example, is the goal to be able to run with the new pattern for a desired length of time or for a desired distance? Once a goal is determined, begin conservatively, with, say, an initial run of only 5% of the goal distance or length. Exclude any hills and uneven terrain during the transition process in order to reduce the likelihood of discomfort.

Stay with that 5% increase until there is no discomfort or pain. After that, add an additional 5% and so forth until the pre-determined goal is achieved. The length of time to reach the ultimate goal depends upon factors such as the nature of the goal, how an individual responds to the changes and the number of runs per week.

The idea is to be progressive enough to allow the body to adapt gradually to the new style while minimizing discomfort or likelihood of injury. Happy running!

More Knowledge: Check out this great article on joint pain and women and how to better manage it.

Authors: Drs. Marco and Paolo De Ciantis are Toronto-based chiropractic doctors and co-owners of Sports Specialist Rehab Centre. The identical twins specialize in pain and injury prevention, working with a range of patients from athletes looking to improve their performance to individuals who simply want day-to-day tasks to be easier, in an effort to restore optimal well-being. They are regular contributors to Optimyz Magazine.

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