Most non-elite runners are overstriders. Their foot lands on their heel, out in front of their body. Overstriding can result in poor running economy and can lead to injuries like shin splints.
To find out if you are an overstrider, determine the number of strides you take per minute. The easiest way to do this is to count the number of times that your right (or left) foot lands each minute, then multiply by 2. If you breathe in the common 2-2 pattern (breathe in for 2 strides, breathe out for 2 strides), you can count the number of breaths you take in a minute and multiply by 4.
Studies have shown that 180 strides per minute is optimal for efficient running. If you get an number that is much lower than 180, you are overstriding. Shorten your stride and increase your leg turnover, making sure that your feet land on the middle of your foot, under your body.
It may take some time to adjust your stride rate. Check it regularly to see how you are doing. Some runners use a metronome set at the proper tempo to make sure that they are maintaining the correct stride rate. The clip-on Seiko DM50 metronome is a popular model. It costs about $25.
You can also download an MP3 file of a metronome set to 180 beats per minute here.
I changed my stride rate about 3 years ago and I think that it has helped me to improve my running efficiency and prevent injuries. I used to get shin splints whenever I increased my mileage significantly. Now, I don’t get them at all.
Take the Overstriding Test on your next run and let me know your results.