Does a running stroller change your running gait?
Over the past two decades there have only been five research papers looking into the affect of running with a stroller. Yet over this time, there has been an increasing use of strollers by runners, including the introduction of specific jogging strollers. The majority of studies have focused on performance aspects such as heart rate, perceived exertion, Vo2 etc. They found statistically significant increases in these measures, but the effect was minor. So it may be a bit more fatiguing with a stroller, but on these measures it is safe and should no be discouraged.
When you run, your arms are free to drive back and forth, so the addition of pushing a fixed object must change your running biomechanics. However, is the change important, and is there anything you should do in response to it? Until a recent article in the journal “Gait and Posture”, the only aspect previously studied was cadence and stride length. This study looked at the knock-on effect of the fixed posture on the biomechanics of the pelvis, hip, knee, and ankle. They studied 15 female runners who were injury free who had recently raced a 5k but had not run with a stroller in the past 12 months. Data were captured from a number of markers using 3D motion analysis over 5, 16 meter trials both with and without the stroller.
Were there any negative findings? And what can we do about them?
- The study confirmed that fixed hands on the stroller reduced the mobility of the trunk.
- This reduction was in both flexion/extension, and rotation.
- People running with strollers may benefit from stretching of the trunk so that in time they do not become stiff and sore.
- It showed a statistically significant decrease in hip extension.
- We should not be surprised with this considering the link between hip extension and anterior pelvic tilt (see our previous blog article)
- This suggests that it may be beneficial for these runners to focus on hip flexor stretching
Were there any positive findings?
- It showed a statistically significant increase in anterior pelvic tilt, and forward trunk lean.
- In a runner a certain amount of anterior tilt and forward trunk lean are needed to optimize ground reaction force to allow acceleration.
- The increase when using the stroller is thought to occur to place an acceleration force on the load in front (the buggy and child).
- Many recreational runners run with too upright a gait pattern so this increased lean may be positive for them.
- There were no changes to the motion of the knee, ankle, or foot.
Was there anything about the study that should make us cautious about the findings?
- They tested short distance trials, 16 meters, so it is entirely possible the mechanics may change with fatigue.
- The participants had not run with a stroller before so the observed mechanics may not be the same as someone who has run with one over time.
Running with a stroller is safe and fun! Based on the new research it may be useful to do some simple trunk and hip flexor stretches after running. Hip flexor stretching should be a part of your normal gentle post-run stretching routine, but trunk stretching is not typically utilized so this would be an addition for most! So enjoy spending quality time outside and introducing your child to running!