top of page

The Runner's Gait: Part 2 - Decoding the Mid-Stance Phase

Updated: Dec 4, 2023


The mid-stance phase, also known as the absorption phase, is a critical turning point in the gait cycle. It is a complex performance of biomechanics, where key anatomical structures work together, functioning as a central hub for running.


In this phase, the runner's knee and ankle are flexed to their maximum, supporting the full weight of the body. This powerful stance absorbs forces up to three times the body weight and simultaneously transforms the legs into an efficient energy storage system, readying for the next step.


A team of muscles, including the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calf, and core, along with several lower extremity muscles, must coordinate flawlessly. Their combined effort creates a stable base for the runner, a vital element for efficient running.


Article Index


Anatomical Structures

Motion Specific Release

Conclusion & References

 

Anatomical Structures


Glutes:

  • The gluteal muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus, are key stabilizers of the hip and pelvis during mid-stance. They ensure the pelvis remains level, providing a stable platform for the absorption and generation of force.

  • Visual Cue: If a runner has weak or dysfunctional gluteal muscles during the mid-stance phase of gait, several observable issues may arise such as: an unstable gait, often demonstrated as a hip drop on the opposite side of the body (Positive Trendelenburg Sign - Gluteus Medius). An increased inward knee movement, known as knee valgus, which can put additional strain on the knee joint and potentially increase the risk of injury.


Quadriceps:

  • This group of muscles, including the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius, are primarily responsible for knee extension and stabilization. During mid-stance, they contribute to shock absorption and help maintain knee flexion, enabling effective load bearing.

  • Visual Cue: If a runner has weak or dysfunctional quadriceps during the mid-stance phase of gait, they may exhibit a compensatory increase in hip flexion or an observable "buckling" or collapsing of the knee. They may also struggle to control the rate of knee flexion, which could result in a "jerky" or uneven gait.




Hamstrings:

  • Comprising the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus, the hamstrings control hip extension and knee flexion. In the mid-stance phase, they work in concert with the quadriceps to stabilize the knee and aid in the transition to the push-off phase.

  • Visual Cue: If a runner has weak or dysfunctional hamstrings during the mid-stance phase of gait, their gait might appear abnormal or unsteady. They may exhibit an inability to fully extend the hip or a decreased knee flexion during swing phase, which might cause a shortened stride length. Additionally, due to the hamstrings' role in decelerating the lower leg in preparation for foot strike, a runner with hamstrings issues may have an early or forceful foot strike, increasing the risk of injury.

Calf Muscles:

  • The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calf play a significant role in the mid-stance phase by controlling the rate of pronation and preparing for the propulsive push-off phase. They help to absorb the impact forces while also contributing to the storage of elastic energy for the next phase of the gait cycle.

  • Visual Cue: A runner with weak or dysfunctional calf muscles may exhibit an inability to effectively push off from the ground or "spring" forward during the propulsive phase. This is because the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) are essential for plantar flexion of the foot, which contributes to the propulsion of the body forward. Consequently, the runner may appear to be spending more time on the ground and have a shortened stride length. In severe cases, the runner might exhibit a "slapping gait", where the foot excessively or abruptly hits the ground due to the lack of plantar flexion control.


Erector Spinae:

  • If a runner has weak or dysfunctional erector spinae muscles during the mid-stance phase of their gait, it can result in postural issues and instability. These muscles, running the length of the spine, provide essential support and enable an upright posture during running.

  • Visual Cue: With compromised erector spinae, the runner may exhibit excessive forward lean. This forward lean can result in overstriding, as the runner may subconsciously try to position their feet under their center of gravity. Over time, this altered running pattern could lead to inefficiency and increased risk of injury, especially in the lower back and lower extremities.


Abdominals:

  • If a runner has weak or dysfunctional abdominal muscles during the mid-stance phase of their gait, it may manifest in several observable ways due to the pivotal role these muscles play in maintaining core stability and facilitating proper running posture.

  • Visual Cue: Excessive anterior pelvic tilt or swayback posture. Exaggerated hip drop or excessive rotational movement in the upper body. The runner might appear to tire quickly, have inconsistent pacing, or struggle to maintain form, especially during longer runs or at faster speeds. All of these factors are related to core stability issues.

Intrinsic Muscles of the Foot and Subtalar Joint:

  • The intricate players in this part of the foot and subtalar joint maintain the delicate balance of foot pronation. When they falter, overpronation or under pronation can occur, causing an uneven distribution of impact forces across the foot, potentially leading to pain in the foot, ankle, or knee.

  • Visual Cue: Watch the roll. If a runner's foot appears to roll too much or too little during the stance phase, it could signal an issue with the foot's intrinsic muscles or the subtalar joint.


Understanding the role of these structures and how their dysfunctions could manifest during the mid-stance phase can guide targeted therapeutic interventions and exercise recommendations to optimize running performance and reduce injury risk.


 


Visual Cues Checklist


Glutes

Visual Cue: Observe for a hip drop on the opposite side (Trendelenburg sign) coupled with inward knee movement (knee valgus).


Quadriceps

Visual Cue: Watch for a compensatory increase in hip flexion along with knee "buckling" or jerky movements.


Hamstrings

Visual Cue: Look for shortened stride length due to limited hip extension and early or forceful foot strike.


Calf Muscles

Visual Cue: Examine for reduced push-off capability and a "slapping gait" due to inadequate plantar flexion control.


Erector Spinae

Visual Cue: Assess for excessive forward lean leading to overstriding and risk of lower back injuries.


Abdominals

Visual Cue: Notice any anterior pelvic tilt, inconsistent pacing, or exaggerated hip drop, all indicative of a weak core.


Intrinsic Muscles of the Foot and Subtalar Joint

Visual Cue: Pay attention to signs of overpronation or underpronation during the stance phase.


 

Motion Specific Release


MSR Midstance Treatment Demonstration

The mid-stance phase, also known as the absorption phase, is a critical turning point in the gait cycle. In this phase, the runner's knee and ankle are flexed to their maximum, supporting the full weight of the body. This powerful stance absorbs forces up to three times the body weight and simultaneously transforms the legs into an efficient energy storage system, readying for the next step.


 

Conclusion


The mid-stance phase in the gait cycle is a biomechanical marvel, acting as a pivotal moment in running. In this phase, a symphony of anatomical structures, including the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and several other muscles, absorb substantial forces while preparing the body for the next step. Each muscle group serves a unique but interconnected role, with observable visual cues offering valuable insights into muscle function or dysfunction.


Understanding these nuances is critical for both athletes and clinicians. It enables targeted therapeutic interventions, such as Motion Specific Release (MSR), and helps in formulating precise exercise recommendations. This knowledge is not merely academic; it has practical implications for enhancing running efficiency and reducing the risk of injury.


 

DR. BRIAN ABELSON DC. - The Author


Dr. Abelson's approach in musculoskeletal health care reflects a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and continuous learning. In his work at Kinetic Health in Calgary, Alberta, he focuses on integrating the latest research with a compassionate understanding of each patient's unique needs. As the developer of the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems, he views his role as both a practitioner and an educator, dedicated to sharing knowledge and techniques that can benefit the wider healthcare community. His ongoing efforts in teaching and practice aim to contribute positively to the field of musculoskeletal health, with a constant emphasis on patient-centered care and the collective advancement of treatment methods.

 


Revolutionize Your Practice with Motion Specific Release (MSR)!


MSR, a cutting-edge treatment system, uniquely fuses varied therapeutic perspectives to resolve musculoskeletal conditions effectively.


Attend our courses to equip yourself with innovative soft-tissue and osseous techniques that seamlessly integrate into your clinical practice and empower your patients by relieving their pain and restoring function. Our curriculum marries medical science with creative therapeutic approaches and provides a comprehensive understanding of musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatment methods.


Our system offers a blend of orthopedic and neurological assessments, myofascial interventions, osseous manipulations, acupressure techniques, kinetic chain explorations, and functional exercise plans.


With MSR, your practice will flourish, achieve remarkable clinical outcomes, and see patient referrals skyrocket. Step into the future of treatment with MSR courses and membership!

 

References

  1. Novacheck, T. F. (1998). The biomechanics of running. Gait & Posture, 7(1), 77-95. doi:10.1016/S0966-6362(97)00038-6

  2. Hamill, J., & Knutzen, K. M. (2009). Biomechanical basis of human movement. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  3. Cavanagh, P. R., & Lafortune, M. A. (1980). Ground reaction forces in distance running. Journal of Biomechanics, 13(5), 397-406. doi:10.1016/0021-9290(80)90033-0

  4. Lieberman, D. E., Venkadesan, M., Werbel, W. A., Daoud, A. I., D'Andrea, S., Davis, I. S., Mang'eni, R. O., & Pitsiladis, Y. (2010). Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 463(7280), 531-535. doi:10.1038/nature08723

  5. Mann, R., & Hagy, J. (1980). Biomechanics of walking, running, and sprinting. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 8(5), 345-350. doi:10.1177/036354658000800506

  6. Iosa, M., Fusco, A., Marchetti, F., Morone, G., Caltagirone, C., Paolucci, S., & Peppe, A. (2012). The golden ratio of gait harmony: repetitive proportions of repetitive gait phases. BioMed research international, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/918642

  7. Kerrigan, D. C., Todd, M. K., & Croce, U. D. (1998). Gender differences in joint biomechanics during walking: normative study in young adults. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 77(1), 2-7. doi:10.1097/00002060-199801000-00002

  8. Taunton, J. E., Ryan, M. B., Clement, D. B., McKenzie, D. C., Lloyd-Smith, D. R., & Zumbo, B. D. (2002). A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British journal of sports medicine, 36(2), 95-101. doi:10.1136/bjsm.36.2.95

  9. Meardon, S. A., Hamill, J., & Derrick, T. R. (2011). Running injury and stride time variability over a prolonged run. Gait & posture, 33(1), 36-40. doi:10.1016/j.gaitpost.2010.10.009

  10. Lieberman, D. E., Venkadesan, M., Werbel, W. A., Daoud, A. I., D'Andrea, S., Davis, I. S., ... & Pitsiladis, Y. (2010). Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. Nature, 463(7280), 531-535. doi:10.1038/nature08723

  11. Heiderscheit, B. C., Chumanov, E. S., Michalski, M. P., Wille, C. M., & Ryan, M. B. (2011). Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 43(2), 296-302. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ebedf4

  12. Novacheck, T. F. (1998). The biomechanics of running. Gait & Posture, 7(1), 77-95. doi:10.1016/S0966-6362(97)00038-6

  13. Stearne, S. M., Alderson, J. A., Green, B. A., Donnelly, C. J., & Rubenson, J. (2016). Joint kinetics in rearfoot versus forefoot running: implications of switching technique. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(7), 1401-1410. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000919

  14. Hasegawa, H., Yamauchi, T., & Kraemer, W. J. (2007). Foot strike patterns of runners at the 15-km point during an elite-level half marathon. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(3), 888-893. doi:10.1519/R-22096.1

  15. Taunton, J. E., Ryan, M. B., Clement, D. B., McKenzie, D. C., Lloyd-Smith, D. R., & Zumbo, B. D. (2002). A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 36(2), 95-101. doi:10.1136/bjsm.36.2.95

  16. Kerrigan, D. C., Franz, J. R., Keenan, G. S., Dicharry, J., Della Croce, U., & Wilder, R. P. (2009). The effect of running shoes on lower extremity joint torques. PM&R, 1(12), 1058-1063. doi:10.1016/j.pmrj.2009.09.011

  17. Dierks, T. A., Manal, K. T., Hamill, J., & Davis, I. (2008). Proximal and distal influences on hip and knee kinematics in runners with patellofemoral pain during a prolonged run. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 38(8), 448-456. doi:10.2519/jospt.2008.2490

  18. Zadpoor, A. A., & Nikooyan, A. A. (2011). The relationship between lower-extremity stress fractures and the ground reaction force: a systematic review. Clinical Biomechanics, 26(1), 23-28. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2010.08.005

  19. Boyer, E. R., & Derrick, T. R. (2015). Select injury-related variables are affected by stride length and foot strike style during running. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(9), 2310-2317. doi:10.1177/0363546515592837

  20. Abelson, B., Abelson, K., & Mylonas, E. (2018, February). A Practitioner's Guide to Motion Specific Release, Functional, Successful, Easy to Implement Techniques for Musculoskeletal Injuries (1st edition). Rowan Tree Books.


 

Disclaimer:

The content on the MSR website, including articles and embedded videos, serves educational and informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice; only certified MSR practitioners should practice these techniques. By accessing this content, you assume full responsibility for your use of the information, acknowledging that the authors and contributors are not liable for any damages or claims that may arise.


This website does not establish a physician-patient relationship. If you have a medical concern, consult an appropriately licensed healthcare provider. Users under the age of 18 are not permitted to use the site. The MSR website may also feature links to third-party sites; however, we bear no responsibility for the content or practices of these external websites.


By using the MSR website, you agree to indemnify and hold the authors and contributors harmless from any claims, including legal fees, arising from your use of the site or violating these terms. This disclaimer constitutes part of the understanding between you and the website's authors regarding the use of the MSR website. For more information, read the full disclaimer and policies in this website.

Recent Posts

See All

Kommentare


bottom of page