Talkback: Dan't alter your run stride say researchers

3 messages
04/08/2017 at 17:30
As far as I can tell, the study in no way supports the conclusion.

If the article fairly represents the paper then the authors looked specifically at athletes running to a trained technique versus and untrained technique and then seeks to conclude that the untrained technique is worse. This is clearly poor science... I have both comments and questions:

1. what was the relative stride length of the more experience runners compared to the less experienced runners? If the more experienced/ faster runners also had a longer stride length (height adjusted) then its a pretty plausible theory that in the long term the inexperienced runners would benefit from adapting their running style to increase stride length (my strength has certainly got longer as I have gained fitness). This is something that the paper does acknowledge - I don't think it really tackles this particularly well.

2. You may have guessed this one... the study makes no attempt to quantify the benefits of actually training to the new stride length. Surely it would have been an infinitely better experiment if athletes spent say 6 - 12 weeks training to a new stride length to so that the new stride length became more natural to them and then comparing the results of different stride length efficiencies. It would not be even remotely surprising if, after a dedicated training focus a lot of those efficiency differences at least disappeared. The authors theory could only then hold true if the natural stride length still showed a statistically significant efficiency advantage over the adjusted stride length.

3. Somewhat a follow up of point 2, did the authors of the paper examine run technique in the non-natural stride lengths. If you ask someone with no drills or training to increase their stride length by 8%, I'd be very surprised if this didn't lead to significant overstriding and therefore cause the athlete to expend energy braking themselves which would obviously lead to a fall in efficiency that wouldn't be observed if the athlete increased their stride length due to greater hip flexor extension and no overstriding - from an n=1 sample of myself, I generally find I can run at a greater pace for a similar heart rate when I focus on glute activation and hip flexor extension. If the experimenters did not take any steps to acknowledge and control for this then I again have to query whether this provides much valuable insight.

The full paper appears to entirely ignore points 2 and 3 which is particularly worrying. Indeed, the paper measures peoples oxygen uptake in minute 2 of running with a new technique (and takes 4 measurements, 1 per 15s window within that minute). Based on the protocol it would be more surprising if people were as efficient after 60s of a new technique as if they had been running with it for months / years... given that in trained athletes we are talking 1.2% efficiency I don't think that you can conclude that natural stride length is most efficient on the basis of this study.
06/08/2017 at 20:56

.... However, this research shows that running with an increase stride length puts a lot more pressure on your joints, especially legs

Before deciding whether to alter your running style and stride length, please don't focus solely on one piece of research, which is looking at a single aspect of running.

23/09/2017 at 20:38

Interesting reading, Im not a great runner, but whilst trying to improve, Ive found a definite improvment on my hill running, when shortening stride but upping the cadence as in the article posted by Mathew  , I dont tire or get out of breath as much, I then revert to my natural stride on the flat. When Im fitter I shall do a back to back on the same run on a hill with shorter stride and natural stride to see if the positive difference is still there, or wether it was a running fitness issue.


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