So you’re ready to hit the ground running, literally. Before you do, there are a few things you should check to make sure your risk for injury is as low as it can be. Of course, getting a running analysis done by a qualified professional is the gold standard to determine your readiness to run. However, here are a few simple tests you could do on your own, too:
1) Ankle dorsiflexion
Ankle dorsiflexion is the ability to raise your forefoot from the ankle joint. From footstrike to midstance during running, your foot goes through an average of 15 degrees of dorsiflexion. Without sufficient dorsiflexion range of motion, one might demonstrate decreased stance time and excessive flexion at other joints while running.
Sit on a chair with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet flat on the ground. Keeping your feet flat on the ground, scoot forward in the chair until your knees are directly over your toes (Photo 1). If you are unable to keep your heels down in this position (Photo 2), you have insufficient ankle dorsiflexion.
2) Hip flexor mobility
The “hip flexor” is made up from 2 muscles, the Iliacus and Psoas, coming together to join the spine/pelvis to the femur. Since the job of these muscles is to flex your hip, tightness of them will result in limited hip extension. This could result in over striding or excessive pelvic rotation.
Sit with your butt at the very edge of your bed. Hug in one leg as you lie onto your back, allowing one leg to hang off the edge. If the knee of your hanging leg is higher than your hip (Photo 4), your hip flexors are limiting your hip extension. Repeat with the other leg to determine symmetry.
3) Glute strength
Consider your Glutes as the powerhouse of your running. They are a massive muscle group and should be used to propel you forward. Unfortunately due to faulty movement patterns or insufficient hip extension range of motion, many runners have weak glutes; forcing them to rely on other, smaller muscles to move forward.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place a pen across your pelvis. Kick one knee straight so that only one foot is making contact with the floor. Try to lift your hips off of the floor with one leg, without allowing the pen to slide off (Photo 5). If the pen slides off (Photo 6), you feel back pain, or you are unable to lift yourself off the ground, you have inadequate glute strength.
4) Dynamic hip stability
Adequate hip stability is necessary to safely absorb shock and efficiently propel you forward. Consider running a series of repetitive single leg hops. With approximately 1000 footstrikes per mile of running, that is a lot of single leg hops. Inefficient hip stability could result in inward collapse of the leg, causing forces to be distributed in a way that puts you at risk for injury.
Stand on one leg and hop in place 15 times. You should be able to do so without collapse of your ankle and/or knee, excessive drop of your pelvis, or a loss of balance. If you experience any of the above, it is likely that your hips are not strong enough to stabilize you through a run.
5) Dynamic core stability
Your core is responsible for holding your body together with every step you take. Your core stability must be adequate enough to maintain your spinal and pelvic alignment with every foot strike and push off. Inadequate core stability could result in an abnormal arm swing, excessive pelvic movement, and a posterior trunk lean.
Starting on your hands and knees with something balancing on your lower back, reach your right arm and left leg away from you at the same time. Repeat with opposite sides. You should experience minimal movement of the spine, resulting in the ability to keep an item on your back without it falling off. If you are unable to balance something on your back, or unable to remove your arm and leg off of the ground at the same time, you likely do not have the appropriate core stability required to run.
If you have failed any of these tests, or have any other questions about running, our Doctors of Physical Therapy are ready to help! Click here to schedule your 60 minute evaluation or email firstname.lastname@example.org!