Females have crappy biomechanics. Our hips are generally wider than males (for popping out babies), causing our alignment of our leg to be entirely different. The angle at our knee (generally described for those wanting fancy terms as genu valgus) is slightly larger. The angle at our hip and relation to knee (known as our Q angle) is greater. We have higher levels of estrogen running amock in our bodies causing our ligaments to be slightly more lax. We have less muscle mass. What does all that nonsense mean? That women in sports are generally at a higher risk for knee and specifically ACL injury. I have been there, done that twice and I can tell you…a) it’s not fun at all and b) if you can prevent injury, definitely do it.
When it comes to running, our flaws in mechanics are magnified. We can take 180 strides or more per minute. That’s 180 times or more that you could be doing something completely wrong and detrimental each minute. Over the course of miles, weeks, months, or even years it can lead to injury. As most runners want to “run for their lifetime”, it is a good idea to keep our flaws in check.
A lot of mechanical issues start from the hips and work their way down to the foot. Weakness of the hip external rotators and abductors or tightness/overuse of the hip internal rotators leads to the following consequences: Increased internal rotation at the hip at heel strike and stance–>increased valgus force at the knee–>overpronation at the foot—>decreased ability to “push-off” into the next stride. This same movement pattern is exacerbated with fatigue, which is why our form tends to breakdown towards the end of a race.
So what can be done? Specific exercises to correct imbalance. Stretching out your IT Band, Hip Rotators, Hamstrings, Gastroc/Soleus, and becoming BFF’s with your foam roller is essential. Drills to practice running form. Have someone video tape you running on both a treadmill and outside. Change up your terrain. Don’t overtrain. Incorporate appropriate cross training into your routine. If you are attempting to switch to a different strike pattern (heel strike, mid foot, forefoot, barefoot running) make sure you are training your muscles to handle that (i.e. barefoot running requires significant intrinsic foot strength). Some of my favorite exercises to use to correct this faulty form pattern are the following:
It’s also a good idea to work on balance and proprioception in a single leg position. It’s good to alter your variables here as well. Practice on even and uneven surfaces. Eyes open and closed. Up on toes. Challenge your limits of stability by tapping your other foot away from your body.
Finally, I like to work on challenging single leg stability dynamically. Practicing hopping onto one foot and landing with an appropriate loading strategy (flexed knee, stick the landing, knee does not migrate inwards) helps develop the stability needs to land each footfall when running.
Thanks to Julie for giving me the idea for this blog post!