Runners are often very attuned with running stride and running form, such that they could be armchair experts (or driving experts) behind the wheel and point out areas of perfection in the running form of other runners.
“She has such a graceful stride,” “He is light and fast on his feet,” or “I wish I had her turnover.” Frankly, the same could be said about the ability to critique the running form and identify flaws.
“She’s really hunching over as she runs,“ “He’s swinging his arms too much across his body instead of front to back,” or simply, “Yikes. He looks like he’s hurting!”
But there are also nuanced characteristics of a running stride that can be harder to identify, even within yourself. One of the prime examples is overstriding.
Although many runners have heard of overstriding, they are necessarily sure exactly what it entails or at least how to identify if you are overstriding yourself. How do you know if you are overstriding when you run? More importantly, if you are, how do you stop overstriding as you run?
In this article, we will discuss how to tell if you are overstriding, why overstriding is bad, and how to stop overstriding.
We will cover:
- What is Overstriding?
- Why Is Overstriding Bad?
- How to Tell If You Are Overstriding
- How to Stop Overstriding
Let’s jump in!
What is Overstriding?
Overstriding refers to a running stride where the leg in front that’s about to land is extending too far in front of your body.
It can be thought of as excessive forward reach of the leg, and it results in heel striking or landing on your rear foot instead of your midfoot.
There are a few defining characteristics of overstriding:
#1: Angled Tibia
In an optimal running strike, the tibia, or shin bones, should be essentially vertical when you land.
This means that the knee should be stacked directly over the ankle the moment you make initial contact with the ground.
It’s important to note that the tibia might not be vertical in the air during the flight phase, but as soon as you make ground contact, the shin should be vertical.
This helps keep your foot closer to your center of mass and reduces the torque on your joints because they are aligned and the lever length, or moment arm, from the impact force, is shorter.
When you overstride, the tibia is angled instead of vertical, such that the ankle is well in front of the knee instead of stacked up and down.
#2: Foot Far In Front Of The Pelvis
When you overstride, the horizontal distance between where your foot contacts the ground and your pelvis is significant. The foot will be far in front of your center of mass.
#3: Heel Striking
When you overstride, you land on your heel or rearfoot because the tibia is angled backward, thrusting the foot into dorsiflexion (toes pointed up). This means the heel contacts the ground first.
Why Is Overstriding Bad?
We often hear that overstraining is bad, but what exactly makes overstraining while running problematic?
The benefits of a vertical shin—and the drawbacks of overstriding—boil down to principles of physics.
Overstriding is less efficient due to the basic physics principle that “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
The acceleration and direction of your tibia at initial contact will dictate the resultant ground reaction forces that, in turn, impact your leg.
When you overstride, your body weight will follow the angle of your shin, such that it presses forward and away from your body.
Therefore, if the ground responds with an equal and opposite force, it will push up and backward relative to the direction you are running.
In other words, the ground is pushing you against the direction you’re trying to travel, requiring you to exert more energy and effort to overcome this negative horizontal acceleration. Essentially, the angled tibia with overstriding acts like a braking force on your forward momentum.
Secondly, physics laws state that torque on a joint is equal to the product of the force on the joint multiplied by the length of the moment arm or lever, meaning the distance that the force is acting from the joint.
When you land on your heel, this is where the point of force occurs.
The moment arm can be thought of as the distance back to your knee and pelvis. The further in front of your center of mass your foot is when you land, the longer that moment arm, so the greater the torque on the joints. This increases the risk of injuries.
The more directly under your center of mass that your foot contacts the ground, the less stress on the bones and joints.
Additionally, when your foot is under your center of mass, your knees and hips have to be flexed. This engages the muscles in your lower body, such as your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, and puts them in their biomechanically-optimal positions to contract.
These muscles can then help absorb the forces of running rather than allowing them to be transmitted directly to your bones and joints.
Your muscles help with shock absorption, and the less you can overstride, the more workload your muscles will get, which is a win-win. Stronger muscles become that much more capable of faster, healthier, more powerful running.
How to Tell If You Are Overstriding
The important question to ask yourself is: “Am I overstriding when I run?“
There are a few different ways to help you determine if you are overstriding when you run.
The simplest method would be to get a gait analysis at a running shoe store. The shoe expert will take a video recording of your running as you run on the treadmill, which can then be played back in slow motion to really get an appreciation of the characteristics of your running stride.
You can look at where you are landing on your foot (heel/rearfoot, midfoot, or forefoot) when your foot lands relative to your center of mass (how far in front of your body your extended foot is at ground contact) and the angle of your tibia (shin bone) relative to the ground when you land.
As a reminder, if you are landing on your heel, your foot is extended well in front of your body, and your tibia is angled such that your knee is behind your ankle rather than having a vertical shin, you are overstriding.
If you don’t have a local running store that offers a complementary running gait analysis service, you can ask a friend or family member to take a video of your running form on a treadmill or a short segment of road or track, and you can try to do a similar gait analysis yourself.
It can be a little trickier because, depending on the software capabilities you have, you might not be able to play the video back in slow motion.
Therefore, if you are a faster runner, it can be hard to catch the joint angles and really see where you are landing. However, you can sometimes look frame by frame, even on iPhones.
A less effective way to tell if you are overstriding when you run is to look at the wear pattern on your shoes.
If the heel is fairly worn down, especially relative to the midfoot or forefoot of the running shoe, it’s likely that you are overstriding and heel striking when you land.
How to Stop Overstriding
So, how can you stop overstriding when you run? Here are some tips to correct overstriding:
#1: Increase Your Cadence
Working to increase your cadence is the best way to stop overstriding when you run.
#2: Switch to Zero Drop Shoes
Wearing zero-drop or minimalist running shoes can help correct overstriding.
Most traditional running shoes have a significant heel-to-toe drop of about 8-12 mm or more. This refers to the height or thickness of the heel of the shoe relative to the forefoot.
In this way, traditional running shoes encourage heel striking because the thicker heel is the first portion of the shoe to contact the ground.
Zero-drop running shoes have a level heel and forefoot, making it easier to land squarely on the midfoot rather than catching the low-hanging heel first.
Additionally, wearing barefoot or minimalist running shoes can also discourage heel striking because these shoes lack significant cushioning seen with traditional running shoes.
Your body immediately feels the impact of landing on your heel, encouraging the natural correction of landing on the midfoot, as this is less painful and puts your foot in a position to take advantage of the natural shock absorption of the arch.
#3: Work On Your Trunk Lean
Increasing your trunk lean by hinging slightly forward at the hips can help correct overstriding.
#5: Try the Pose Method Of Running
The Pose Method of running can correct overstriding by forcing a short stride, vertical shin, and natural midfoot landing pattern.
With this information, can you immediately tell if you’re an overstrider?
In addition to overstriding, there are endless pieces of our running form that we can work on to improve our running in general.
Check out our proper running form article for all of the details.