The stride length that runners naturally choose is the best one for them, according to a study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science.
It’s already known that experienced runners seem to naturally select a stride length which is optimal for minimising oxygen uptake, and researchers at Brigham Young University wanted to find out whether this ability is naturally built into the human body or whether it is learned through experience. The study investigated whether inexperienced runners are as capable as experienced runners of self-optimising stride length to minimise oxygen uptake.
USA Track and Field consultant Iain Hunter and US Olympian Jared Ward, two professors at the university, measured the energy use of 33 runners while they adopted various stride lengths during a 20-minute run. Of the participants, 19 were experienced runners (averaging at least 20 miles a week) while 14 were inexperienced runners (people who have never run more than five miles in a week).
The research team measured the energy output of the runners with masks that recorded the amount of oxygen used.
Results showed that both the experienced and the inexperienced runners were most efficient when they were using their preferred stride.
This suggests that athletes and coaches don’t need to alter a runner’s stride length when economy is the main concern.
“Don’t worry about changing your stride length,” said Hunter, a professor of exercise science at BYU. “You should just leave it alone or you’re going to use more energy in the end.”
Ward, an adjunct faculty in the BYU statistics department, added: “Many people are advocating for various ‘optimal’ running forms, but this study shows even novice runners shouldn’t try to run any different than their body naturally does.”