This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
Can increasing your stride rate help you become a more injury resistant runner? Can you actually train yourself to increase your stride rate? It appears the answers just might be yes and yes.
I’ve been sitting on this study on increasing stride rate for a while because it never really seemed to fit but I wanted to write about it at some point because it did have interesting results.
In short, runners were given cues to help them improve stride rate by 7.5% over their natural stride rate. The test was to determine whether impact forces at foot plant and hip adduction (I often call this "hip drop", when the hip on the opposite side of your foot that is currently on the ground drops) could be reduced. Hip adduction is an important factor in things like ITBS and "runner’s knee". So reducing this, as well obviously as reducing any forces at the time of foot plant, would be important in injury prevention.
There were only 8 "retraining" sessions performed. Then measurements were taken immediately following retraining and one month later and compared to pre-retraining results.
Stride rates were actually increased by a little more than the cue was designed for, 8.6%. Load rates all decreased significantly (around 18% with a high degree of certainty). Hip adduction was improved by an average of 2.9 degrees, again with a high degree of certainty.
Best of all, these gains were maintained a month later with no additional feedback.
Thus, in-field gait retraining, cueing a modest increase in step rate, was effective at reducing impact forces, peak hip adduction and eccentric knee joint work.
This is very interesting. It suggests that trying to make a slight change in stride rate may actually reduce injury risk and, most importantly, a relative handful of sessions intended to increase rate seem to be relatively "sticky" in terms of producing results that last.