NO! In the 70’s, it was not complicated when few westerners ran simply on natural surfaces for recreation and pleasure. Just imagine the running shoes then were nothing more than a layer of rubbery material with the inner side of the sole giving comfort to the feet, the outer side giving grip to the ground and the upper was made out of canvas with laces.
Today, distance endurance running on hard uneven surface is complicated and competitive even though amazing running techniques and product technology is introduced practically everyday. It requires skills, conditioning and active development of individual’s style of running.
Biomechanics is the science of the movement of a human body how muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments work together to produce movement. It can help you appreciate your own running form, gait &posture to assess how you can enhance your performance and remain pain free. Although running most definitely depends on whole body interaction, basic understanding of your “Foot, Ankle & biomechanics” is utmost critical to determine style of running, specific running shoes, custom orthotic insoles and demand of physical exercises pre and post running.
THE GAIT CYCLE
The Gait cycle starts when one foot makes contact with the ground, and ends when that same foot makes contact with the ground again. This can be divided up into two “phases” – the ‘Stance Phase’ during which the foot is in contact with the ground and the ‘Swing Phase’ during which the foot is not in contact with the ground.
Initial ground contact
Let’s imagine you are at that moment in your stride when both feet are off the floor (float phase). Your left leg is out in front of you and about to touch the ground. This moment (regardless landing on heel, mid-foot, or forefoot) is called initial contact and marks the beginning of the stance phase where as your right foot behind you is off the floor and in swing phase.
Braking (Absorption) & Mid-Stance
As soon as your left foot makes contact with the ground in front of you, your body is in effect performing a controlled landing, managed via deceleration and braking. Your left knee and ankle flex (the opposite of straighten) and the left foot rolls in (pronates) to absorb impact forces. During this process of absorption, the tendons and connective tissue within the muscles store elastic energy for use later in the propulsion phase. The braking phase above continues until the left leg is directly under the hips taking maximum load as the body weight passes over it. The left ankle and knee are at maximum flexion angle. This moment is called mid stance (you may also hear it referred to as single support phase).
Now that your left leg has made a controlled landing and absorbed as much energy as it’s going to get, it starts to propel you forward. This is achieved by your left ankle, knee and hip all extending (straightening) to push the body up and forward, using the elastic energy stored during the braking phase above. The more elastic energy available at this stage, the less your body has to use the muscles. The propulsion phase ends when the toe of your left foot (now behind you) leaves the ground, commonly referred to as “toe off”. At this point, both of your feet are off the ground so you are once again in float phase.
In this spring-mass model, the runner’s body is modelled as a mass supported by a lower extremity spring.
The elastic muscle-tendon elements in the lower extremity of the runner are first compressed, like a spring, from initial contact with the ground to the middle of mid-support storing potential energy.
This potential energy is then released as kinetic energy from the middle of mid-support to toe-off of running.
The shoe mid sole, due to its elasticity, may also act as a spring in synergy with the spring of the lower extremity to decrease the metabolic cost of running.
RUNNING STRIKE - According to classic running biomechanics, the runners landing on:
- Rear Foot: The proximal third of the running sole are Rear Foot strikers; i.e. ‘Heel to Toe’, adopted by estimated 75% of running population. They have high frequency impact peak that is caused by initial heel strike with the ground that is followed by a lower frequency propulsive peak caused by the center of mass of the runners passing over the planted foot.
- Mid Foot: The middle third of the sole are Mid Foot strikers; i.e. ‘Mid foot to Toe’, adopted by estimated 20% of running population. They don’t have initial heel strike to the ground; they only demonstrate the propulsive peak during running
- Fore Foot:The distal third of the sole are Fore Foot strikers; i.e. ‘Fore foot’, adopted by estimated at 5%, of running population, mainly spinsters. They don’t have initial heel strike or land on mid foot.
The scientists at modern biomechanics labs have provided excellent research evidence on how running shoes may affect the impact forces, biomechanics in inherent running and may improve the metabolic efficiency of running.
The footwear companies based on ongoing R & D has led to introducing running shoes that are highly complex with multi components built in out soles and midsoles that are designed to provide stability, control, cushion, lightweight to provide performance to the foot of every runner.
The running population expects that their podiatrist will be the one with the best knowledge to match individual’s biomechanics with the most compatible brand and model of running shoe.
You'd think with all the technology that goes into making today's running shoes, keeping in mind ‘All Feet”, the runners wouldn't need additional customization. However, the shoes are not designed specific to individual’s gait, posture and biomechanics like a prescription lenses set for your eyes which can’t be used by anyone else.
Once a podiatrist has conducted a complete evaluation of your feet, ankle and human structure from ground up to the neck the custom orthotic insoles are crafted. The Custom Orthotic Insoles take into account to:
- Equalize three planes of a specific human structure to provide optimum gait, posture and biomechanics in both static and dynamic position
- Enhance physical performance
- Correct impairments associated with various musculoskeletal, integumentary and neuro issues
- Prevent injuries and early degenerative changes.
THE RUNNING IS REAL ONLY WHEN YOU KNOW & CONNECT YOUR MIND WITH YOUR “GAIT, POSTURE & BIOMECHANICS”