Running gait is simply the technique or sequencing of running, defined by the cycle a leg travels through while running. There are both appropriate and inappropriate patterns when it comes to running gait. Inappropriate patterns are considered a gait issue which not only affect running, but walking patterns as well. As children develop, it is important that they are demonstrating proper walking and running patterns and hitting milestones within the correct window. Children should demonstrate running around the age of two, which should progress and be considered an appropriate pattern by the ages of six to eight.
If your child is not performing running with correct sequencing, there may be underlying issues that need to be addressed. It is imperative to address these issues as early on as possible, before they become more problematic as the child ages. Be sure to speak with one of our pediatric physical therapists (PT) to make sure your child gets the help they need to get ahead of and tackle these issues. PTs can help improve your child’s running gait, which in turn may improve their quality of life with increased playing, socialization, exercise, and sport participation. All of these points are imperative to childhood development. Physical therapy can go a long way towards improving your child’s life at home and around the community.
What Does Good Running Form Look Like?
It is important to recognize what proper running gait should look like in children. They should present with a vertical torso and their body leaning slightly forward so that their feet are behind their hips. Your child’s elbow should be bent at right angles, and their arms should pump up and down as they run with their fists moving from hip to chin. The front leg should bend forward at the knee while the bag leg straightens, and feet should land softly without excessive force noted through heel or toes.
Common Running Gait Issues in Children
There are some common issues noted in children with inappropriate running techniques. Some children present with out-toeing-gait, sometimes referred to as “duck-footed,” which occurs when the toes point outward when running or walking. This affects efficiency and comfortability of both gait techniques. In-toeing-gait, often called “pigeon-toed,” presents as the toes pointing inwards with walking or running. This issue may affect efficiency and comfortability with both gait techniques.
Toe walking refers to when an individual walks or runs on their toes instead of their whole foot. This inappropriate technique puts a lot of stress on the toes and arches of the foot, and may affect stability. Limping is more commonly known and is an unsteady gait pattern that favors one leg. It is often a result of an injury, but your child may continue to present with limping as their body may have adapted to this pattern despite the injury being mostly or completely healed. Heel striking is seen when the child is running with their heel hitting the ground first. The child should be landing on their forefoot, but not on their toes or heels.
Exercises to Help Improve Your Child’s Running Gait
So how do you fix your child’s running form? The exercises and treatment appropriate for your child may vary depending on their running gait presentation and underlying cause. Some generally beneficial exercises for running gait include supine (lying on your back) exercises such as bridges and straight leg raises to target hip mobility. Squats and lunges are great for impaired ankle mobility. A lack of either hip or ankle mobility will limit your child’s running form. Consistent stretching goes hand and hand with mobility as tight musculature may affect your child’s range of motion with their running gait. Plyometrics are excellent for increasing running power to improve your child’s speed.
Physical Therapy with Niagara Therapy, LLC
Niagara Therapy has impeccable and well trained staff to treat your child with running gait dysfunction, and will create a personalized routine to address these issues. Physical therapy can help your child strengthen, increase their mobility, and address coordination deficits for appropriate running technique. Niagara Therapy has the tools and skill to show you how to fix your child’s running form. Contact Niagara Therapy today by calling 814-464-0627 and set up your one on one appointment.