Why a longer running stride length can create twisting

Mar 3, 2023

Understand how twisting can create energy leakage that will affect your running efficiency and race speed

The word “stride” is used pretty casually among runners. It’s often confused with your gait or your step count. However, it’s something completely different. “Stride length is the distance covered between the spot where one foot hits the ground and the next time that same foot hits the ground again,”

That’s two steps—one with your right foot, one with your left. The number of steps you take is always twice the number of strides, and the number of steps you take per minute is actually called cadence.

It’s hard to think about your stride length without also considering your cadence and pace, “If you’re maintaining the same pace but running with a shortened stride length, you’ll increase your cadence because you’ll be taking more steps per minute,” a running expert explains. “If you lengthen your stride, you’ll be taking less steps per minute at the same pace.”

What determines a stride length?

While many people think stride length has to do with height or leg length, it’s not just runners with long legs who have a long stride and vice versa. Research shows that runners with long legs can have a short stride, while shorter runners can have a long stride.

There are a lot of variables that go into the equation, including your individual biometrics: your overall height, the length of your legs, and running biomechanics like your foot strike, says “Some of the other variables that determine stride length are body weight, flexibility, and stiffness (or how much the joints of the foot, knee, and hip move during the running gait,” discusses a running coach

Plus, your stride length can change during a run. As you go uphill, your steps tend to get shorter, and you take more of them. On the downhill, your steps will open, and you’ll take fewer of them. When you generate more power, like during a sprint to the finish, your step length, cadence, or both can increase. And the more fatigued you get, the more you.

The effect of longer strides and the relationship to injury

How fast you can run is determined by the length of your stride times the rate that your feet hit the ground. However, you cannot run faster by consciously trying to increase your stride length. When you try to take longer strides than what feels natural to you, you lose energy and end up running slower. Furthermore, you increase your chance of injuring yourself because it slows your cadence and increases the force of your feet striking the ground.

Your most efficient stride length is determined by what feels most comfortable to you. Your foot hits the ground with great force. The tendons in your legs absorb some of this energy and then contract forcibly after your heel hits the ground so you regain about 60 to 75 percent of that as stored energy. When you try to take a stride that is longer than your natural one, you lose a great deal of this stored energy, tire much earlier and move your legs at a slower rate. When most athletes run as fast as they can, they run at close to the same stride rate. The difference between the top runners and the others is that the best runners took longer strides. The key to running faster in races is to make your leg muscles stronger so you can contract them with greater force so they drive you forward with a longer stride.

With an overstride, your body weight will be pressing forward and away from your body (down the angle of your shin), meaning that the responding impact forces will end up pushing backwards against you, ultimately resulting in a braking force on impact. With the forces working in the opposite direction of your running, you’ll experience slower running speed and will require significantly more energy in order to keep up your usual pace. Not to mention the increased braking and landing forces will also increase risk of injury, especially the longer you leave it unaddressed.

The constant landing on a stiff leg due to the overstride can create compensations in your running as a pre warning before injury. A result of this can cause changes in your running type altogether and your landing can cause twisting motions as a form or counterbalancing the extra load going through your leg.

If you have this twisting motion will find your arms coming across crossing your body as you run and so essentially you end up with more rotation movement in your trunk than forward motion. Essentially you are not using your arms effectively and so rotate at the shoulders to help your forward momentum. It is unfortunately the lack of control in this region that is primarily creating this modified running pattern. This brings about more risk of thoracic and lower back injuries to longer you continue to run.

Tips to avoid an overstride:

  • Increase forward lean: overstride runners tend to lean back so thinking of running more upright reduces the need to land in front of you and with an upright angle of the tibia.
  • Include hill running into your training: It is nearly impossible to over-stride while running uphill. Adding uphill intervals, which consist of running four to seven sets at a 4 to 5 percent grade for three minutes at tempo pace with a two-minute rest, will help you practice making proper contact with the ground under your centre of gravity.
  • Increase cadence: quicker leg turnovers helps you land closer to your centre of mass which reduces braking force and load on your joints. This must not be forced though and it is advisable to improve your running form prior to trying to change your cadence, you will find your cadence improves naturally as a result of working on your form.
  • More range of motion in hip extension: better hip extension means more use of the glutes and maximises the push off phase of your stride.


To conclude, next time you are out on a run just think about how you are landing and what the rest of your body is doing on each stride biomechanically. You may be loosing energy with each stride which will definitely decrease performance levels as you progress and may lead to injury and imbalances in the future

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