Q&A: Why Does My Leg Flick Out When I Run?

Jul 1, 2013   //   by James Dunne   //   Ask The Coach  //  3 Comments

Question From Lucy

When I run my right leg flicks out to the right so if you think from the back as my heel comes up behind me on the left leg it’s more or less in line with my hamstring, but on the right leg when my heel comes up behind me it flicks to the right hand side.

My knees always seem to collapse inwards too if that’s related and the more tired I get the more that happens!

I always seem to have a niggle in one place or another on the right side so wondered if it was anything to do with that? What, if anything can I do about this?

Response From Coach James Dunne

Hi Lucy, thanks for the question. You’re certainly not the only runner with a noticeable ‘flick’ on one leg or both – it’s a common trait I see in athletes of all types.

As the heel comes up behind and under the body when running, I’d like the foot to come through inline with the leg, when observed from behind. Some runners however flick the foot outwards (as you describe), some flick the foot inwards towards the midline of the body. Clearly neither of these two flicking actions are what we want to see in a runner’s ideal form. Such a flick can be indicative of a number of different underlying flaws – often around the hips.

The following comments should be taken with the major caveat that I haven’t seen you run! Thus I’m talking in general terms based on what your question tells me…

Your question involves two key phrases which I feel are probably linked:

…but on the right leg when my heel comes up behind me it flicks to the right hand side.

My knees always seem to collapse inwards too…

Both the ‘flick out’ when the limb is swinging, and the ‘collapse inwards’ when the limb is in contact with the ground potentially point to the same dysfunctional factor at the hip: poor control of internal rotation and adduction.

I suggest you’d most likely benefit from targeted strengthening and control exercises working the the external rotators and abductors of the hip, in particular Glute Medius.

As I said, there are a number of other possible causes – but I’d need to see you face-to-face to look at your running to be able to comment further!

Here are a few exercises to try

About The Author

James has an academic background in Sport Rehabilitation and a special interest in Applied Biomechanics. He currently coaches a large number of Runners and Triathletes across all levels of ability and performance. He's grown a strong reputation for enabling athletes to improve their running performance and overcome running injuries through improving their Running Technique and developing Running Specific Strength.

 

3 Comments

  • Hi James,

    Would tightness or weakness in outer or inner hamstrings also cause this? Could it be that Lucy that the outside hamstrings are stronger thus want to do all the work thus kicking out the foot?

    Nigel.

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