Optimal stride length for runners: What’s it about?

Stride length is a very important measurement for runners. If you’re training with a running coach (you better!), you must have realized that by now. Truth be told, there isn’t a good coach that doesn’t pay special attention to this parameter, during the training process. Besides, today it’s easy to measure and assess this KPI using fitness — or training — watches. 

What’s stride length about?

The stride length is the distance you cover when completing two steps — one step with each foot. By measuring and analyzing your it, the coach can evaluate the movement and the overall mechanics of your body; as well as your muscular activity. This process helps them distinguish if you’re lagging behind somewhere in your training. And, if you do, they can pinpoint whether this happens due to muscle dysfunction or weakness. This way, they can guide you properly towards achieving peak athletic performance.

All in all, the stride length incorporates four distinct phases:

1. Front support phase

In the front support phase, we have the damping of the soil reaction against contact.

2. Rear support phase

During the rear support phase, the coach can determine the size and direction of the speed; as well as the extension of the leg, the knee and the hip.

3. Anterior swing phase

In the anterior swing phase, we have an additional impulse, caused by the previous phases; where the effect of detachment from the ground happens.

4. Rear swing phase

The rear swing phase features a free oscillation of the pushing leg, after detaching from the ground. It prompts relaxation of the extensor muscles in the knee and hip.

Factors that can affect the length of your stride

The stride needs to be individualized for each athlete; and it usually depends on the following factors:

  • Your height
  • The biomechanics of your body
  • Your fitness level
  • Your running economy level
  • The muscle strength level

Adding the stride frequency in the mix

The speed at which you run, highly depends on stride frequency, too; that is, in addition to the length of the stride. The stride frequency is the speed at which one completes each length. Therefore, if you are to increase your running speed, you’ll need to increase your stride frequency; while, of course, adapting your body to the longest possible length your running economy can support.

On optimal stride length and frequency

Depending on the distance you have to travel, your stride length and frequency are expected to change a bit with time. To elaborate, if you have to run a long distance, these two parameters will slightly decrease. They will also change depending on the geographical terrain of the route. That is, as both the large stride length and increased frequency require high energy consumption. On routes with an uneven or uphill ground, they can be catalytic for your performance.

As mentioned, a large and fast stride tends to consume more energy. That’s why runners need to execute muscle-strengthening workouts, within a holistic training plan, to maintain the optimal combination of stride length and stride frequency. Keep in mind that flexibility can also help maintain an optimal stride.

Using data to get into your stride

All things considered, finding the optimal stride length and frequency can play an important part in maximizing your performance. The good news is, you can obtain a lot of information regarding your stride, through fitness — or training — watches, from manufacturers like Garmin and Polar. Of course, your coach will need to have access to this data, to configure your training plan according to your needs and goals. Using this kind of data to obtain the optimal length and frequency of stride, certainly goes a long way towards maximizing your running performance!

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Optimal stride length for runners: What’s it about? was last modified: July 27th, 2022 by Marilena Kokkinou