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Running Form: Am I Overstriding?

One of the most common running form problems exhibited by runners of all experience levels is overstriding

Photo: Getty Images

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

But, what is overstriding in running? Is overstriding while running bad? How do you know if you are overstriding when you run? How do you stop overstriding when running?

Keep reading to learn more about overstriding and whether this is a running form issue you should work on.

What is Overstriding?

Overstriding while running refers to exhibiting a running stride where you are extending your leg too far forward in the swing phase just before you land on your foot so that you end up landing on your heel rather than your midfoot. 

What Are Signs of Overstriding While Running?

As with any running form issue—or really any problem for that matter—being able to recognize or know that you are overstriding is the first step to being able to fix your running form.

Here are some signs of overstriding: 

Heel Striking 

Rearfoot striking, often called heel striking, is typically associated with overstriding. 

In fact, heel striking and overstriding pretty much go hand in hand. If you are landing on your heel, your foot is too far out in front of you when you land. With optimal form you want to have your shin vertical and stacked directly under your knee on the leg as you land, so that you land on your midfoot, not your heel.

If you are landing on your heel, it means that your shin or tibia is angled away from your body rather than dropping down vertically from your knee when you land.

You may be able to see evidence of heel striking by looking at the wear pattern on the bottom of your running shoe if you’ve been wearing your shoes for a while.

Runners who heel strike or overstride while running will have more wearing away of the rear of the shoe.

RELATED: Here’s What Beginners Need To Know About Running Form

Angled Shin

If your shin is angled away from your body when you land on your foot rather than dropping straight down, it is a sign of overstriding.

Slow Cadence

If you have a long stride, with your foot landing far out in front of your pelvis, and a slow running cadence (fewer than 170 steps per minute or so), you are probably overstriding while running.

The best way to know if you are overstriding is to get a running gait analysis at a running shoe store. This is usually a free service, and it can help you not only determine your foot strike, but other elements of your running gait and stride, such as whether you are pronating, supinating, overstriding, dragging your feet or shuffling, or engaging in any other type of running gait abnormality that may lead to injury or the need for specific types of supportive or corrective running shoes or orthotics.

The shoe fit experts will take a video of your running form from the back and side.

The video form analysis can then be slowed down to examine your stride frame by frame. 

This will help show where on your foot you are landing when you run and how you load your feet from initial contact to push-off, whether heel striking and then pushing off with the toes, using a midfoot strike, or running on your toes throughout the gait cycle.

Why Is Overstriding Bad?

Overstriding can put extra torque and stress on your lower legs, which can increase the risk of injuries such as shin splints, runner’s knee, and certain other running injuries.

Overstriding may also reduce running economy because landing on your heel with your shin angled backwards towards your knee creates a breaking force for your forward momentum, wasting energy that does not get translated into forward velocity.

In accordance with Newton’s Third Law of Motion (try to put yourself back into high school physics class!), “Every force (of action) has an equal and opposite reaction.”

This means that not only is the ground pushing back up as hard as you are landing upon it, but the direction of that force and acceleration is exactly opposite of the direction in which you apply your impact force to the ground. When you are overstriding, you are landing on your heel with your tibia angled away from the forward direction (towards your body).

This means that the ground reaction force is essentially pushing you backwards, so you’re having to overcome the negative acceleration that you are receiving, which reduces your running economy.

How Can I Stop Overstriding When I Run? 

So, if you determine that you are likely overstriding while running, The next step is trying to correct your running form.

The good news is that there are a few tips to stop overstriding that may be helpful:

  • Try increasing your cadence. You can use a running cadence app like Run Tempo. This will help naturally encourage a shorter stride and has been shown to reduce the risk of injuries.
  • Consider incorporating zero-drop shoes like minimalist running shoes in your running shoe rotation. The lower heel height helps you land on your midfoot rather than hitting the heel portion of the shoe first and gives you more sensory feedback to land on your midfoot.
  • Lean slightly forward at the hips to keep your momentum in the forward direction as you run.

While it is possible to change your running stride and fix overstriding while running, make sure to transition gradually, whether incorporating zero-drop running shoes, increasing your cadence, or performing running drills to work on your foot strike pattern. 

This will help prevent a sudden change in the impact stress to another part of your foot and up the kinetic chain of your lower limb that has not been used to dealing with this stress.

Spend certain portions of each run working on adjusting your foot strike pattern, or cut back your running volume while you do so, and supplement with cross-training in order to prevent injuries as your body adapts.

RELATED: Cross Training: The Alphabet Workout

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