Cross-over stride, why is it so bad for hip pain?

14 January, 2018

Cross-over striding, when you run, is one of the commonest errors that runners perform, and it can lead to all kinds of foot, ankle and hip problems.

Have you noticed that you get mud on the inside of your lower calf/shin? Then you may have a cross-over stride.

What is Cross-Striding?

If you imagine when you run that there is a tightrope between your legs that you are running along. your foot should land on the tightrope with only a part of the big toe on the rope, the majority of the foot should be to the side of the rope (left side for the left foot and right side for right foot). However some runners will land with their foot too far over the rope, and in some extreme cases, even all the way over (e.g. left foot landing on the right side of the line) See figure 1 below.

an image that shows the footprint of a cross-over stride compared to normal

Normal stride width on left, “cross-over” stride on right

Why is a cross-over stride not good for us?

In an ideal situation, when landing on one leg, our bodyweight should be balanced optimally above the femur, so that the compressive shock forces impact the centre of the hip socket. This minimises the forces absorbed by the surrounding musculature and ligaments, and makes weight transfer, through the lumbopelvic spine onto the other leg more efficient.

However, in runners with a cross-over stride, the foot lands too far inwards (over the tightrope). This means that the ankle has to pronate excessively – placing huge forces through the medial ankle ligaments (especially the deltoid ligament). As if this wasn’t bad enough, the shock forces then travel with huge speed up through the knee and to the hip, however, unlike normal striding, the forces are not born by the central hip socket. this time the force is absorbed by the outer hip socket and therefore the surrounding hip labrum and joint capsule, and finally by the lateral hip stabilisers – the gluteus minimus, medius, piriformis Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and Iliotibial Band (ITB). Sound familiar?

a photo of a runner with cross stride from behind with markers to demonstrate the error

Notice the “leaning tower of Pisa” Leg? this athlete has significant cross-over stride.

How to Correct it?

Running is a complex movement, and running errors seldom occur in isolation. Here are some possible causes and recommended solutions:

  • Imagine you have a short 6″ dowel rod between your knees to prevent them from bashing into each other and to keep them separated. Sometimes just picturing this is enough to get the brain to modify the motor pattern slightly.
  • having an arm that swings over the midline on the opposite side of the body i.e. if you cross-over with the left foot, your right arm most likely is also swinging across the centre of the body. The arms should be swinging alongside the body, and not crossing the centre.
  • Stretch your ITB/TFL and glutes. (see video below for stretches). I would recommend buying a lacrosse ball or using a tennis ball to do some myofascial release work on your Glutes and TFL muscles.
  • If you find that you get mud on the inside of your calves – this is a huge tell-tale sign that you have a cross-over stride.

Want to know more about running errors? speak to our team, or check out this blog –  4 Common Running Mistakes You MUST Avoid

for hip/ITB pain, try these – how to Stretch the ITB and Outer Hip