Where is Your Center Mass in Running?

Your center mass position is everything in running! The wrong position makes it more challenging to run, but also increases impact intensity. This is why it’s very important for all runners to know what is and where is their center mass.

Where is Your Center Mass in Running?

In short, the center of mass definition is this: the head and the torso, shown below:

Where is your center of mass
Center mass in running involves the head and the torso.

A more scientifically-correct definition of the center mass is this:

  • The center of mass is an imaginary point at which the total body mass is concentrated, and it is a general descriptor of whole body mass movement.

The position of your torso/head during running significantly influences kinematics, mechanical work and metabolic energy expenditure whereby heel strike running and forefoot strike running involves different center of mass positions.

  • Heel strike runners have a more posterior (backward) center of mass position –the runner’s torso is kept upright (i.e. no leaning) during running; whereas forefoot runners have a more anterior (forward leaning) center of mass position.

Injury

As mentioned above, heel strikers run more upright, causing a foot strike position to be in front of the knee (over-striding) and the center of mass , which ultimately creates braking and compressive forces on the knee-joint –this is how heel strike runners get runners knee.

To make running safer on the knees, the center of mass needs to travel parallel with initial foot strike position, meaning the center of mass must hover over the foot during touchdown. This configuration of the center of mass occurs in forefoot running and is achieved by allowing your whole body to lean or fall forward.

Maintaining Your Forward Lean

When running, focus on your torso/head moving forward first instead of reaching out with your leg at each step. That is, lead with your torso/head and then let your foot fall under the body to reduce braking.

The Take Home Message

Understanding the center of mass definition and how to position it properly during running will improve loading patterns at the ankle, knee and hip joints, and lowers metabolic cost, too.

In all, shifting the center of mass forward by adding a subtle body-lean to your forefoot running gait is a remarkably simple, yet precise technique to help you run better, and faster!


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References:

Annoni et al. The effect of high-heeled shoes on overground gait kinematics in young healthy women. Sports Sci Health, 2014; 10:149-157.

Lormier, AV and Hume, PA. Achilles tendon injury risk factors associated with running. Sports Med, 2014; 44(10):1459-72.

Schuber, AG., Kempf, J and Heiderscheit, BC. Influence of stride frequency and length on running mechanics: a systematic review. Sports Health, 2014; 6(3):210-18.


Bretta Riches

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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