The physical therapist's guide to running

By Drew Matsen, PT, DPT, OSC, CSCS  |  3/9/2018

I work as a full-time outpatient physical therapist at Sharon Hospital in Sharon, Conn.

I mostly work with patients suffering from orthopedic injuries. These range from general back pain to sports injuries, including from running.

I have been an avid runner for more than 20 years, but I became more serious in the past six years. I never really focused on running form or thought there was a "right" way to run until I came across the book "The Pose Method of Running," by Nicholas Romanov.

The book describes a more efficient and functional way of running. Reading this was a great "aha moment" in my career.

The method of running speaks about a forward lean, allowing gravity to assist forward motion, shorter stride length, faster tempo and landing with the ball of the foot first. The running technique is as simple as 1, 2, 3:


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The last motion hit home to me as a physical therapist. Landing on the ball of your foot and letting the heel kiss the ground prevents heel strike and promotes landing your foot in front of your body. This creates a breaking effect with less efficiency. If your heel lands in front of you, the ground force pushes you backward. Thank you, Isaac Newton!

Think about this: What do you do when you want to slow down from a sprint? Try it. The first thing you do is lengthen your stride, lean back and heel strike. If this is the technique that slows you down, why run that way?

I truly believe there is a right way to run. Running is a skill you need to learn. Following the cues as stated above will decrease the body stress and allow for improved efficiency. Also, with this technique the hamstrings are the driving force for lifting the legs. Stretching the hamstrings is very important after a run. Spend the time to stretch your hamstrings and calves.

Run well, my friends.

Drew Matsen is a physical therapist at Sharon Hospital. Learn more about the hospital's physical therapy department.