Knee pain is pervasive among runners. It can reduce a smooth and confident runner to a wounded animal who can’t make it down the street. Yet there is a single telltale sign that can reveal an increased risk of pain before it begins.
If you love running—or would like to love running but keep getting held back by pain—it’s important to be aware of this one key indicator for injury and be proactive in fixing it to prevent running pain.
The Key Indicator
This common sign is known as the Trendelenburg Gait within medical communities. But in this article, we will refer to it as a pelvic drop. It occurs when supported on a single leg, which would be mid-stance during running (ref).
(Runcycle (2016, May 11). Physiopedia. Retrieved from [LINK])
The warning sign is a drop of the pelvis on the side of the leg that’s lifted. In the examples below, the hips remain neutral in the strong runner, but in the weak runner, the hip drops on the side of the swing leg.
The pelvic drop is indicative of poor strength of the hip stabilizers. Specifically, weak hip muscles called the Glute Medius, and Glute Minimus are at the root of the issue. These muscles are responsible for lifting the leg away from the body.
Having strong abductors is important for creating a pillar of support while running. Without a stable base, the leg can’t stay aligned under the body, putting undue stress on the knee and ankle.
This small thing is an important variable linked to running injuries. And when I say small, in a study assessing runners with knee or heel pain, for every 1 degree of pelvic drop observed during running, there was an 80% increase in the odds of injury (ref).
Considering 1 out of every 2 runners will end up in pain throughout the year (ref), it’s important that a corrective strategy gets implemented early on to prevent injury setbacks.
Assess Your Hip Strength
Assess your strength by taking a video of yourself standing on one leg. Watch for a drop of the pelvis on the side of the lifted leg or compensation by leaning away from the lifted leg.
In this video, we demonstrate the things to look for:
You can also take a video of yourself running, providing valuable information about the changes that happen when you become fatigued. Compare your running form when fresh and then after a hard run and look for any changes that occur.
Here is a great demonstration of a Trendelenburg Gait in action:
Prevent Running Pain
You can reduce the risk of injury by working on running technique and carefully increasing mileage. Although, those things won’t make an impact without the prerequisite strength of the stabilizing muscles around the hip.
Unfortunately, strength training is often an afterthought for a runner. Or the program doesn’t address the specific stability issues needed for strong and powerful running.
For more information on the keys to developing strength for runners, check out our Glute and Core Guide for the important areas to address.