AUT University’s Running Mechanics Clinic, modelled on the University of Calgary’s Running Injury Clinic in Canada, aims to help runners stay injury-free and improve their performance.
Forget rugby, running is the sport of our time. It’s an individual pursuit, performance gains are easily tracked and there’s a massive industry dedicated to producing athletic paraphernalia to make runners look good (and perform better, of course).
But it can also be hard on the body—think fallen arches, shin splints, strained Achilles, bruised heels, various knee and back ailments—which is where AUT University’s Running Mechanics Clinic (RMC) comes in.
Closely modelled on the University of Calgary’s Running Injury Clinic in Canada, it aims to help runners stay injury-free and improve their performance.
RMC manager Kelly Sheerin spent time working at the University of Calgary’s clinic before establishing the AUT clinic in 2008, which continues to receive advice and support from its internationally respected Canadian counterpart.
“Being part of a university means we have access to the latest research and we can base our analysis and advice for clients on that research,” says Sheerin.
“We have a mix of people using the clinic, from recreational runners to high-performance athletes, but the aim is the same: to allow them to do what they love, stay physically active and in optimal health.”
Runners who visit the clinic on AUT’s North Shore campus commit to an assessment process that includes having their running filmed by multiple cameras at the RMC.
“Using the multiple cameras allows us to take video footage from all angles, which then gives us a complete picture of how runners move.”
Software used at the clinic completes the picture, allowing the RMC to measure variables such as pelvic, leg and foot motion and to track these variables over time to assess a runner’s progress.
“The detailed level of the analysis allows us to give very specific feedback to our clients about the changes they can make to avoid injury—or re-injury—or to improve their running performance.”
Experience at the clinic shows there are massive variances in running form but Sheerin says research has shown there are some consistent factors for runners to concentrate on.
“The hips and glutes are the most important part of any runner. Having strong, flexible hips gives you a good base from which to build your running technique.
“One of the most common reasons runners present to us with injuries is because they are either really tight or really weak in this region. The injuries that they present with can range from pain in their shins and feet, right through to bone stress fractures.”
Training is another key area, according to Sheerin; specifically a schedule that incorporates recovery time.
Recent research from the RMC includes a SPARC-funded study looking at the running mechanics of young athletes aged between nine and 14 years old.
Sheerin says the study is only a first step in determining how best to work with young athletes but it shows that for the purposes of training and development “children are not just small adults”.
To date very little research has focused on assessing the running technique in children and the latest RMC study has attracted an invitation for Sheerin to present at the International Society of Biomechanics in Sport Conference in the US in July.
The next focus for the clinic, in partnership with Adidas, is a nationwide survey looking at the habits of the adult running population.
“We are hoping to identify patterns of injury and, ultimately, provide people with advice that allows them to enjoy all the physical and mental health benefits of running without the negative impacts.”