Running Without Pain: Cues to Reduce Ground Reaction Forces

If you’ve worked with me for a running-related injury, you will have definitely heard me talk about ground reaction forces and how to disperse these forces to lower your risk of injury. There was a recent article published reviewing different cues to reduce ground reaction forces while running. This blog will help you understand ground reaction forces, learn some running mechanics that help with these forces, and learn some cues to think about while running to help you run pain-free.

Ground reaction force (GRF) is the force exerted on the body from the ground.

When standing still, the GRF is equal to your body mass. The force is equal and opposite to your mass. When moving, this force is increased to meet the demands your body is pushing against the ground.

Common Causes of Running-Related Injuries

It is important to understand common faults when running that lead to higher ground reaction forces. These have been well-studied and are known to cause spikes in GRF and injury rates.

  1. Heel strike pattern

  2. Slow running cadence (steps per minute)

  3. Poor trunk control (excessive forward lean or excessive extension of the spine)

The cues that we will discuss in this blog are going to tie into each of these common faults.

Cues to Reduce Vertical Ground Reaction Forces When Running

  1. Change to a ball-of-foot strike

  2. Increase cadence to 180 steps per minute

  3. Stand up taller

A recent study by Zimmermann and Bakker compared the effect each of these cues had on GRF. Each cue was able to reduce certain forces, but the combination of all three cues had the most impact on a runner’s GRF.

While out running, it could be beneficial to think about these cues. Try to run softly on the balls of your feet and stand up taller. There are several devices, such as running watches and activity trackers, that can help you monitor your cadence. To keep it simple, you can also listen to a running playlist on Spotify that has a beat matching a cadence of 180 steps per minute (yes, they actually make playlists for different cadences).

Run quickly and safely, friends.

Corey Hall, PT, DPT

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