Earlier today I found a useful video from John Foster describing and giving the rationale for a simple running technique cue:
“Push through The Ball”
…which is very different to landing on the ball of the foot. We’re not talking about contact pattern here.
As John describes it:
The goal of this cue is to stiffen the ankle and pre-set the calf muscles to prevent excess dorsiflexion (forward ankle bend). The result is normally shorter ground contact and a feeling of ‘ticking along’. We are not after a large recoil or bounding action – just a reduction in the slow spongy slog pattern we sometimes see when running slowly…
In a previous video post, my colleague Ian Griffiths gives some brilliant insights into the importance of limb stiffness from a running performance and injury rehab point of view.
Active Stance Phase
The simple method John presents in the video is basically a neat way of cueing the plantar flexor muscles to create an increased internal plantarflexion moment at the ankle. This acts to counter the external dorsiflexion moment experienced at the ankle due to ground reaction force during midstance phase of running gait. Essentially increasing joint stiffness.
You can learn more about the different phases of the running gait cycle here: The Running Gait Cycle Made Simple
In my experience, this becomes especially powerful in runners I meet with overuse pathologies biomechanically associated with increased mid stance dorsiflexion and knee flexion angle.
Such injuries as Achilles Tendinopathy, Patellofemoral Pain and Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (to name a few) frequently react well to this kind of coaching at the right point in the rehab plan.
I tend to coach a very similar set of cues to reach the same end result as John. Many of my athletes will have heard me referring to this as an Active Stance Phase.
Try it, but don’t force it… The feeling you’re looking for is ‘responsive under foot’ not ‘bouncy’ 🙂