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  • Melissa Paauwe

Shorten your stride - What does that mean anyways?

We have all at one time or another heard the concept of shortening one’s stride to become a more efficient runner. As an inexperienced runner, at the time, with an inexperienced teacher, I was told my stride length was much too long. After a few sessions of working on shortening my stride, I gave up. It was uncomfortable and I was getting slower. Something didn’t make sense to me.

I recognize that changing an aspect of your gait often sees a reduction in speed during the adaptation phase. But I’m also glad I didn’t waste a ton of time trying to “correct” my stride length now that I know what that really means.

Many runners are heel strikers. In order to heel strike your foot must land in front of your body. This is the part of the stride a runner wants to shorten. The farther in front of the body the foot lands, the more detrimental to your speed. If your foot lands way ahead of your body, you are putting unnecessary stress on the hamstrings as well as creating a brake in your stride. Typically, heel strikers have a slower turnover. Ideally, one’s foot lands just ahead of the hips or right under so they can instantly push off in a fluid powerful motion. So if you are trying to shorten your stride don’t waste your energy trying to shorten the aspect of the stride when your foot is behind your body, unless of course you kick your butt when you run. When your foot is behind you mid stride it is in the recovery phase in the gait cycle and therefore should not be an area of focus in respects to stride length. Focus on where your foot is landing in front of your body and you're sure to gain some running efficiency.

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