Welcome back to another #MetricMonday!
Metric Monday sees us take an in-depth look at a range of metrics that impact your running, one by one, detailing their importance, what they mean, and how understanding and working to improve on each metric can help you in your running performance.
By understanding and working on these metrics for those crucial, performance-boosting marginal gains, you can improve on the key aspects of your form and technique and become a consistently better runner.
This week, we’re highlighting the importance of understanding your kickback, and what a little work and training on that aspect of your running form can do for your overall performance.
What is Kickback?
Your kickback is how high your heel is at the end stage of your stride.
It’s a key aspect of running form is often largely dependant on your speed. Typically, the faster you run, the more you will require a higher kickback. It’s simply down to mechanics – the more force you’re generating to push forward at a higher speed, then the higher your legs will need to kickback as you increase momentum.
That said, while just controlling your speed is one way to take into account your natural kickback, there is reason to look deeper into the form factor of kickback, and how a few very minor tweaks can make you a more consistent, efficient runner.
Why is it important?
Put simply, having a good kick back will help you to have an improved overall efficiency.
As we’ve already touched on briefly, your leg’s swing is largely a reflex in response to your speed and movement to generate momentum. It’s just your legs getting themselves ready to swing forward once more and anticipate the next footstrike. That’s why, when running at faster paces, the foot has to be raised higher as there’s a bigger reflexive drive.
Increasing your kick back will also spread the workload on your leg muscles. By having a kickback that sits beneath your bum/hip, your leg’s forward swings will, as a result, engage the hamstrings during the mid-swing phase of your movement. Why this is particularly important to note is that it will reduce the load placed on your hip flexors, as they pull the swinging leg through on to the next stride. Instead, your hamstrings take a bit of the pressure to ease off your hips.
Many will also know that it’s quite common to see professional athletes, when running at a fast pace or sprinting, have a very high kickback – in some cases, almost to the point where they are kicking their bums.
By then swinging their trailing leg forwards, they engage their leg muscles, particularly their hamstrings, during the mid-swing phase and increase the amount of momentum in their swing.
The reason their kickback is so high is that is a result of that extra, high speed force. Their trailing leg is thrust back high to then push forward at a higher rate of intensity and speed. In theory, their trailing leg is being pulled back into position for the next footstrike by both the natural swing of the hip flexors, but also the thigh and hamstrings that thrust the rest of the leg forward.
So when we consider the impact of a good kickback, it’s important to think about the rest of your leg’s movement – your thigh, your hips, and of course, the speed that you’re running at. All of these aspects collate to determine how effective your kickback is for your running.
Did you also know that you can also use your kickback to help increase your stride length? For this, we need to think about another key metric in bettering running form – symmetry. It’s important to have a balanced posture for an economical run, and that also includes your kickback movement.
Your lower leg should be raised to be nearly parallel to the ground when it’s trailing behind you so that your knee then lifts higher in front of you, and as a result, helps to increase your stride length.
What does the science say?
When looking at the data around runner’s kickback, it’s clear that a common issue that a lot of runners come across is to place too much emphasis on the hip flexors when swinging their legs – this is known as a hip flexor dominant swing phase.
Sometimes you might see this as being a small heel lift, like the shuffle running technique, which is seen as a bad trait as it places more strain and demand on the hip flexors – which is something you should look to avoid to avoid hurting your iliotibial band or causing imbalances in your posture and the muscles around your hip area.
How can you improve your Kickback?
As alluded to earlier, thinking of your kickback as a series of movements from key parts of your lower body – your hips, your thighs and hamstrings, and your lower legs. Your hips will swing your legs naturally, but you can use the additional force from your thighs to pull your lower legs forward ready for the next footstrike.
It’s about learning to spread the workload – creating a more balanced distribution of the load on your knees and leg muscles, which will make for more efficient and economical running.
But there is another way to get started working on your kickback. In fact, it’s never been easier to see exactly how you can better your running form and technique.
Improving your kickback is easy with STRIDESENSE. Using our leggings, sensors, and app, you can track your leg movement to assess if your kickback is too high or low, and see it represented on a visual chart.
There is no scoring for your kickback. Instead, the app simply provides zones for you to target by displaying your movement and highlighting the zones to aim for.
You can also think about your kickback in relation to your knee elevation. Both are metrics that, with STRIDESENSE, are measured in ranges, to highlight the best place for your kick or knee respectively to be positioned in your movement.
To find out more about STRIDESENSE, visit our website: