How many times have you been told that if only you improved your running form, you’d be a better, more efficient runner?
A 2018 study by Brian Hanley and Catherine B. Tucker out of Leeds Beckett University has revealed that a little asymmetry in your stride might not be an abnormal or bad thing.
Hanley and Tucker examined 14 competitive runners while running for 10,000m at speeds equivalent to 103 per cent of their season’s best time. Researchers looked at the runner’s strides at 1,500m, 3,000m, 5,000m, 7,500m, and 9,500m.
Hanley and Tucker were mainly interested in gait variability and inter-leg symmetry. They found that, “There were only moderate changes in variability between successive testing distances for three variables. Even with these few changes, variability was low (<4 per cent) at all distances for all variables measured and, on average, the athletes were symmetrical for five of the seven gait variables measured.”
All of the athletes were fairly symmetrical, but not perfectly. Researchers concluded that practitioners should be cautious when suggesting gate corrections based on minor asymmetry. “Although most athletes were asymmetrical (>1.2 per cent) for at least one variable, no one was asymmetrical for more than four of the seven variables measured. Being asymmetrical in a few variables is therefore not abnormal and not indicative of asymmetrical gait.”
The athletes tested were elite runners, and presumably their strides were fairly efficient. While a major or recurring injury could be an indication of a form issue, a slightly asymmetrical running gait that isn’t causing any problems likely is not. This is further supported by the idea that with prolonged running and training, the body will naturally adopt the most efficient form for that particular individual and that there is indeed no proper or perfect running form for all.