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Running Anatomy- The Running Gait Cycle

Updated on September 3, 2014

An explanation of the Running Gait Cycle

An explanation of the runners' gait cycle is vital in the assistance of performance and running action development. This article looks at a basic understanding of the anatomy as well as the biomechanics of the runners gait action.

Vital factors of the running gait that need to be understood include the biomechanical and anataomical engagement and disengagement of the running motion as well as their kinaesthetic results which help to perfect the running action through the fine tuning of the gait cycle.

The running gait in action at the London Marathon

The running gait in action.
The running gait in action. | Source

Analysis of the Running Gait Cycle

One of the best ways to understand running is through the analysis of the gait cycle. As running is characterised by having one foot off the floor at any given time (unlike walking) during any one cycle.

Stages of the running gait cycle

  1. The stance phase (support phase)
  2. the swing phase

The Stance / Support Phase

The stance phase begins when your foot is in contact with the ground- hence it also being known as the support phase.

It can be broken down into

  1. Heel Strike
  2. Mid Stance
  3. Toe Off

Runners In Action At Tough Mudder Midlands 2014

Runners in action at Broughton House, Kettering. Tough Mudder Midlands 2014
Runners in action at Broughton House, Kettering. Tough Mudder Midlands 2014

1. Heel Strike

Ideally your heel should strike the ground on the back outside edge of your shoe sole. If you inspect a pair of your old running shoes you should be able to notice additional wear potentially to the outside of your heel. This is the point where the muscles joints tendons and ligaments of the leg function to dissipate the forces of the landing.

2. Mid Stance

Upon landing your foot begins to roll inwards into a position of pronation (do not get this mixed up with shoe types). All runners need a degree of pronation in their foot action through mid-stance as it allows the body to absorb ground reaction forces in the most biomechanically-efficient position.

3. Toe-Off

Your big toe leaves the ground last as you create a propulsory force to move forward. During the toe-off your foot arches heighten to place your foot back into a stable supinated position to 'push' from. Therefore a good supportive shoe with excellent stability around the arches can help a runner with their gait action and provide protection from injury.

Running Anatomy in Action

The running gait action in motion
The running gait action in motion | Source

The Swing Phase

The swing phase is characterised as when your foot is in the air and has two components

  1. Internal Rotation
  2. External Rotation

1. Internal Rotation

After a successful biomechanically efficient toe-off phase, the foot will be in a position of internal rotation. The toes will point inwards (towards the midline). Whilst the leg is moving forward through the air, the hip, knee, and ankle, must all rotate outwards to allow your heel to strike on it's outside edge. .

2. External Rotation

As your legs effectively cross in mid-air, your leading leg should be in a position of external rotation as the toes point away from the body. This allows your heel to strike the ground on the outer edge in a supinated position.

And that's just one cycle!

When you go for a run you continuously complete the cycle.

Books for the active runner


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