Running and Core Stability
I’m still in the UK having spent the weekend at the TCR (Triathlon, Cycling and Running) Expo in London. I had a great time meeting people, attending some talks and doing a few of my own. On Sunday I sat in on a talk by a local physical therapist (called a ‘physio’ here). He had some great action videos shot of various runners of many different abilities. Each was running barefoot on a treadmill with a view from the back. I wish I had gotten his name and business affiliation but I failed to do so as I got there after the introduction.
The first video he showed was of a sub-2:20 marathoner who had been running for several years. This runner certainly had what could be called ‘excessive pronation.’ Shortly after footstrike, which appeared to be fairly midfoot, his foot collapsed medially (to the inside) quite a bit. Yet when the video was freeze framed at this point and advanced one frame at a time there was no medial collapse of the knee. In fact, the knee and leg held a straight line from the hip to the ankle. That is unusual for a runner with such an extreme amount of pronation. Maintaining a straight line from hip to ankle means that the core muscles must be quite strong to keep the hip from dropping as the recovery leg swings through. If the hip drops the knee must collapse to maintain balance. With this runner, again being viewed from the back, the waistline of his shorts remained perfectly horizontal. That was because his core muscles kept everything nicely in place. So despite an excessively pronated foot there was no medial or lateral stress being placed on the leg, knee or hip. And, in fact, this athlete reported that he had never been injured despite many years of running.
Another video was presented in which a young female runner was viewed from the back as she ran. Her foot and ankle movement were nearly textbook with the ankle showing only a slight amount of pronation, which is considered ‘normal.’ However, she reported a significant history of iliotibial band (ITB) injuries. It was obvious why this was the case. As her recovery leg would swing through the hip on that side collapsed and the knee of the support leg buckled in considerably as a result. Going farther up the chain it was evident that her core muscles were quite weak because the waistband on her shorts rocked up and down pivoting around her SI joint region.
The bottom line of his presentation was that the core muscles are at least as critical to running stability and performance as are the feet. He gave an excellent presentation and much food for thought. I only wish I had gotten his name.