Can gait re-training improve performance?

Interesting new research has found that running gait may play a significant role in efficiency and performance. We’ve summarised the findings and made some recommendations in the free download below.

Coaches have suggested for many years that running technique is key to performance but, until recently, we’ve had little evidence to support this. Folland et al. (2017) compared running gait with measures of efficiency and performance in 97 runners of varying abilities. They concluded;

“The current study provides novel and robust evidence that running technique explains a substantial proportion of the variance in running economy (39%) and performance (31%). It is therefore recommended that runners and coaches be attentive to stride parameters (lower duty factor, shorter ground contact time and shorter stride length) and lower limb angles (more vertical shank and plantarflexed foot at touchdown, and a smaller range of motion of the knee and hip during stance) in part to optimise pelvis movement (minimal braking, vertical oscillation, and transverse rotation), and ultimately enhance performance.”

This is a complex topic which overlaps with gait re-training as a treatment option so we’ve discussed it in our Facebook Live video below (recorded May 2017) to save you reading a very lengthy blog!

Be sure to grab our free download with tips on applying this theory and cues that may help running performance.

A few key points to add to this;

  • Any changes should be based on individual needs, there’s no one size fits all approach!
  • This research links running technique with performance but it doesn’t show that changing these gait factors will make you a better runner!
  • Further research is needed to assess the effect of gait re-training on running performance
  • We tend to feel comfortable running when metabolic cost is low (i.e. if we’re efficient)
  • Gait cues that feel uncomfortable in terms of increased effort may reduce efficiency
  • This link between comfort and efficiency may help us to ‘self optimise’ our running gait by developing a technique that feels comfortable to us.
  • Izzy Moore’s work found that the running economy of novice runners improves with practice, suggesting we may self-optimise running gait, perhaps without need of additional intervention or technique cues.

Some food for thought there then! I’d recommend this great open access review, Moore (2016) for a great overview of the topic. If I had to sum things up in one paragraph it would be this;

Gait re-training may improve performance if comfortable for the runner and based on individual need. BUT first we should prioritise key areas shown to improve performance; training structure and progression, strength and conditioning and positive lifestyle changes (recovery, sleep, diet and mental wellbeing).

For more resources to use in your clinic check out our download page with 6 free clinical gems!

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