British researchers used 3D-infrared cameras to analyze the gaits of both healthy runners and those with injuries like runner’s knee, shin splints, IT band syndrome, and Achilles heel pain. They found that the compromised athletes had more side-to-side pelvic drop, which they say contributed to the injuries.
When you shift your weight from the left leg to the right mid-run, your left hip naturally drops (and vice versa). The hip should drop to about the same level on either side, but if you have imbalanced hips one side will dip lower than the other does with each step. When that happens, it causes unnatural rotation and torque in your femur, knee, tibia, and foot, explains Janet Hamilton, CSCS, exercise physiologist based in Atlanta.
To see if you have strength imbalances that lead to side-to-side pelvic drop, test yourself with hip hikes: Stand on a bottom stair with left shoulder facing the staircase, right shoulder facing away from it, left foot on the stair, and right foot hanging off the step. Keeping abs engaged, dip your right pelvis to lower the right leg, pause just before it reaches the floor, and use your hip to raise it up again. Continue until you’re fatigued, then switch sides and repeat.
If you rack up more reps on one side, that’s a sign you may have imbalances that can lead to common injuries.
Strengthening the hips is one way to prevent future running injuries. Hamilton suggests adding hip hikes (to fatigue) and side planks (three 10-second holds per side, holding for longer over time) to your routine every day.