Orange County, California

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  • Greg Hodel

How does the stride differ between running distance and a sprint?

The following drawings show the path of the ball of the foot relative to the hip for one stride. The top drawing is from a female runner in the middle of about a 4:30 mile. The bottom drawing is from an elite male sprinter at top speed in the 100 m. In both drawings, the leg curls to bring the ball of the foot high after leaving the ground. In both cases the ball of the foot is accelerated backward before contacting the ground. I think the similarities might surprise many people that are not familiar with running mechanics. Some people may think that the mechanics of the stride in a mile would be a lot different from those in the 100 m. Here they appear to be similar.

The female miler did not rotate her thigh as far as the sprinter rotated his thigh, so the foot dropped more quickly as her leg straightened. This may be required to conserve energy. Due to the slower ground speed in the mile relative to that of the 100 m., the foot does not need to be accelerated backward as much.

In this picture, the foot stays high longer as it is being brought forward. This is the result of the thigh rotating further forward than in the picture above. The thigh needs to rotate to give the glutes a longer range of motion through which to accelerate the foot before contacting the ground.