Anatomy of Running Mechanics – Part II

woman running winter mitts cold weather blue jacket

As promised! Today we are talking about the next segment of running mechanics which is the toe off (or propulsion) portion of your run!

PSSSSST!… Is this your first time on our blog? Check out the first segment of this post here.

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Toe Off and Swing Phases

This phase starts when the it begins to come off the ground. While foot contact is happening, propulsion is rooted in the hip. It is hip extension that provides the power to move your body forward. What does this mean? The more powerful and rapid the hip is extended, the faster you will move forward and when the hip is extended correctly another stretch reflex mechanism in the body occurs. As Steve Magness explains,

This is best thought of as a sling shot where you stretch the sling shot back and then let it go. The result will be that it shoots forward very rapidly. The hip works in much the same way. If you extend the hip you are putting it in a stretch position. With the sling shot, if instead of letting it go, you tried to move it forward, the sling shot band would come forward much more slowly. The same applies for the hip.

What happens next is a passive reflex in the body. The body will almost unconsciously allow the leg to recoil bringing the heel towards your bum and then bring the knee forward. Following this, the leg will begin to straighten which will allow the runner to put the foot down and make contact with the ground.

To dig a little deeper into this topic, peruse through the following:

Knikou, M. (2007). Hip-phase-dependent flexion reflex modulation and expression of

spasms in patients with spinal cord injury. Exp Neurol, 204(1), 171–181.
Steve Magness’ site and/or book
Happy strides!

About Caitlin

Caitlin is the owner of Align Sport Therapy & Yoga. As a Certified Athletic Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher, Caitlin works with athletes full time on ice, in the clinic, or in a studio, helping to rehabilitate injury or progress strength and flexibility. Always fascinated by the human body, Caitlin was naturally drawn to Athletic Therapy and yoga and constantly works to intertwine both disciplines when working with clients. Her Athletic Therapy work includes sports teams (football, hockey, basketball, rugby, and karate to name a few) as well as general population.

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