http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJKMCrG9C2s In the video above, notice where the feet land. More than occasionally, they will cross into each other's lane. This is known as “crossover gait” and is one of the more common gait issues seen in runners.
Have you ever noticed dirt or scuff marks on the inner calf after a run? Just a little crossover gait happening there.
And that sexy supermodel walk thing you do? Yup, pathological gait problem.
So what's the big deal?
Well, only the fact that it's a really inefficient way to run and your risk of certain injuries (IT Band Syndrome, especially) go way up!
I think we can all agree that generally the goal in racing is to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. To that end, the less sideways movement, the better. With crossover gait, you've got a bit of lateral motion in not only the feet, but also the entire center of mass.
WHY It Happens
This goes back to the pelvic unleveling post (seriously, read that) from a few months ago. When your glutes don't do their job on your weight bearing leg and your core doesn't do it's supportive thing on your non-weight bearing side, you set yourself up for a crossover stride.
As you bear weight onto your leg without the proper glute and core support, you will 'sink' into that hip and your entire center of mass will shift with you to the side. Your brain, ever the quick thinker, senses this subtle change in body position and reacts by positioning your swing leg in front of your body. Thing is, in order to maintain balance, your swing leg must now cross over so that it is positioned to 'catch' the body as it lands.
Put simply, this is a motor control issue. For some reason (lots of possibilities here) your body doesn't create the appropriate stiffness in the core and hips at the right time.
WHAT To Do
I'd recommend being assessed by a competent professional, first and foremost. One of the greatest mistakes is to see a flaw in a running stride and then simply try to correct it. You've got to look 'under the hood' and make sure there aren't any underlying issues. With crossover gait there is almost always core dysfunction lurking below the surface.
As The Gait Guys say, “when you watch someone run, you are watching their compensations”.
If you take away their compensation what will happen? Well, another one will likely be created!
I'm not going to go into too much depth here, but there are 3-4 major steps to the process of fixing crossover gait:
1. Address any underlying core and hip weakness by strengthening your glutes and obliques. Specifically, the side bridge is a kick ass choice when done like THIS. (Crappy form is seen all the time with this exercise, so pay attention.)
3A. Learn how to use those muscles properly while walking and running. The Gait Guys have a great video on this here. A simple cue is to think about contracting your butt muscles when you land on that leg while slightly hiking your hip on the swing leg side.
3B. My favorite drill is to have someone run along, but not on, a crack in the sidewalk. If you've got a little crossover action going on in your stride, this will be a huge challenge! You want to land as close to the crack as possible without touching it.
My best advice is to get assessed and learn what YOU should be doing and where along the progression you should start. Contact me or another qualified professional in your area to get on your way towards becoming a stronger, bulletproof runner!