fbpx

Are You Overstriding When You Run? How To Identify & Fix It

We will discuss how to tell if you are overstriding, why overstriding is bad, and how to stop overstriding.

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!”

However, 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.

As a running coach, I often find that although many runners have heard of overstriding, they often aren’t necessarily sure exactly what it entails or how to identify if they are doing it themselves.

How do you know if you are overstriding when you run? More importantly, if you are, how do you stop overstriding as you run?

A runner overstriding.

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, resulting 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.

Runners heelstriking.

#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 overstriding is bad, but what exactly makes overstriding 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. 

A runner overstriding.

When you overstride, your body weight will follow the angle of your shin, such that it presses forward and away from your body.1Souza, R. B. (2016). An Evidence-Based Videotaped Running Biomechanics Analysis. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America27(1), 217–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2015.08.006

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. In this instance, the length of the movement arm or lever is equivalent to the distance from where the force is coming from (the point where the foot strikes the ground) and the affected joint.

When you land on your heel, this is where the point of force occurs.

A runner overstriding.

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 such as tendonitis and shin splints.2Reinking, M. F., Austin, T. M., Richter, R. R., & Krieger, M. M. (2016). Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome in Active Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Risk Factors. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach9(3), 252–261. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738116673299 3Yates, B., & White, S. (2004). The Incidence and Risk Factors in the Development of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome among Naval Recruits. The American Journal of Sports Medicine32(3), 772–780. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095399703258776 4Baggaley, M., Vernillo, G., Martinez, A., Horvais, N., Giandolini, M., Millet, G. Y., & Edwards, W. B. (2019). Step length and grade effects on energy absorption and impact attenuation in running. European Journal of Sport Science20(6), 756–766. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1664639

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 hip flexors 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. The increased workload will improve your running performance by strengthening the muscles, making you capable of faster, healthier, more powerful running, whilst also reducing your risk of running injuries.

A person running in the sand.

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 – and in the case of overpronation – stride length specifically.

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.

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, it means you are overstriding.

Are You Overstriding When You Run? How To Identify & Fix It 1

If you don’t have a local running store that offers a complementary running gait cycle 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 running 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.

A person running with a good stride.

How to Stop Overstriding

So, how can you stop overstriding when you run? Here are some tips to correct overstriding and improve your running technique:

#1: Increase Your Cadence

Running cadence refers to the number of steps you take per minute when running.

Working to increase your cadence is the best way to stop overstriding when you run.5Heiderscheit, B. C., Chumanov, E. S., Michalski, M. P., Wille, C. M., & Ryan, M. B. (2011). Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise43(2), 296–302. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ebedf4

One method of doing this is to use a metronome app for runners, such as Smart Metronome or Run Tempo, and gradually increase your cadence to 180 steps per minute or more.

#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, improving your running mechanics.

A person running down the road.

#3: Work On Your Trunk Lean 

Increasing your trunk lean by hinging slightly forward at the hips can help correct overstriding.

#4: 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 help with injury prevention and improve our running efficiency in general.

Check out our proper running form article for all of the details.

A person exaggerating their running form.

References

  • 1
    Souza, R. B. (2016). An Evidence-Based Videotaped Running Biomechanics Analysis. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America27(1), 217–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmr.2015.08.006
  • 2
    Reinking, M. F., Austin, T. M., Richter, R. R., & Krieger, M. M. (2016). Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome in Active Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Risk Factors. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach9(3), 252–261. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738116673299
  • 3
    Yates, B., & White, S. (2004). The Incidence and Risk Factors in the Development of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome among Naval Recruits. The American Journal of Sports Medicine32(3), 772–780. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095399703258776
  • 4
    Baggaley, M., Vernillo, G., Martinez, A., Horvais, N., Giandolini, M., Millet, G. Y., & Edwards, W. B. (2019). Step length and grade effects on energy absorption and impact attenuation in running. European Journal of Sport Science20(6), 756–766. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1664639
  • 5
    Heiderscheit, B. C., Chumanov, E. S., Michalski, M. P., Wille, C. M., & Ryan, M. B. (2011). Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise43(2), 296–302. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ebedf4
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.