Running Analysis Case Study

Typically, running gait analysis is performed on a treadmill for logistical reasons. However, there are benefits to performing gait analysis over ground, particularly if video is captured in the context of a workout. This allows us to identify underlying biomechanical factors that may only appear when the athlete is fatigued. By developing an exercise program to correct mechanical flaws we can help the runner recover from an injury, prevent future injury, and improve performance by optimizing running economy.

I recently had the opportunity to film a runner I’ve been working with towards the end of his interval workout. This runner has had a recurring lumbar spine injury which is aggravated only during the later stages of races (particularly marathons or half marathons) and during/after fast interval workouts. The following images were recorded during a set of 8 x 200 meter repetitions performed in 28-30 seconds. They were part of a “special block” workout, in which the runner completed an interval workout in the morning followed by this set of 200’s in the afternoon.

Frontal Plane: From a frontal view, Matt has excellent form. He is symmetrical without excessive side to side motion at the shoulders, arms, ankles or knees. He has a neutral midfoot strike and a normal level of pronation before his ankle begins to supinate in preparation for push-off. In addition, his pelvis stays level throughout each legs stance phase. Finally, note that his quadriceps are very well developed (perhaps overdeveloped, which we’ll touch on later).

Sagittal Plane: This view again shows Matt has great form, but shows several factors predisposing him to low back pain. Matt’s shoulders and thoracic spine are almost perpendicular to the ground, but in his middle lumbar spine there is an abrupt curve with his pelvis in excessive anterior tilt. You can actually see the angle of his iliac crest dip forward as he extends his leg behind him at each push off. This is better appreciated when reviewing the video in slow motion, but if you look closely an increased lumbar lordosis and increased anterior pelvic tilt are apparent.

The Fix: Essentially, Matt’s biomechanics are negatively affected by 4 factors:

  1. Decreased hip flexor flexibility
  2. Decreased gluteal muscle activation through midstance and at push off
  3. Decreased deep core muscle strength (internal oblique, external oblique, transverse abdominus)
  4. Decreased quadriceps flexibility

In summary, although Matt has very good running form we were able to develop a flexibility, core strengthening, and gluteal strengthening program in order minimize stress to his lower back and prevent future injury.