You are mostly likely not getting to your big toe at push-off if you are doing this.

You are mostly likely not getting to your big toe at push-off if you are doing this. Look at the shoe wear patterns in the photos below, they are not this runners, but another runner who also has a cross over gait. And, if you have a painful big toe, you will do it as well. Oh, and Head-over-foot related, yup. Read on . . .

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Yes, the cross over gait. Yes, when you are into a cross over gait you are most certainly head over foot. And that is most likely not a good thing.

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If you are not closer to stacking the hip over the knee, and knee over the foot (like in the photo "SUI" bib runner) you are not likely getting to much of your big toe at terminal stance loading, when you could be getting more power at push off.
Said another way, if you are attacking the ground with the feet closer together, as if you are running on a line (as in the photo) you are going to be more on the outside of the foot (note the lateral foot contact), show a similar wear/loading pattern as in these shoes, and hardly load the medial foot tripod effectively.
Go ahead, walk around your office or home right now . . . . with a very narrow step width and see how little you can load into the big toe-medial foot tripod (note how little effective glute engagement you get as well by the way. there is a reason why there is a limit to the effectiveness of a very narrow step width). Then, walk with a wider step width, note the easier more effective big toe-medial tripod loading, and, note the glutes come into play much more profoundly.
Thus, head over foot/cross over gait is foolish for effective gait. You have a big toe, don't you wish to use it ? One has to find that balance between an economical step width that still allows an effective toe off event in walking and running. A very narrow cross over-style gait does not afford us this.
So, should it be any surprise to any of us that someone with pain in the big toe or medial tripod complex will choose a narrow step width to avoid the painful loading ? No, no surprise there at all.
We have been writing about the cross over gait for 10 years, bringing little pieces of research to the forefront to prove our theories on it as the research presents itself. We first brought it to you with our 3 part video series here. Search our blog, type in "cross over gait" into the search box on the site www.thegaitguys.com and get a LARGE coffee before hand, you are going to be reading for several hours.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG-xLi2m5Rc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WptxNrj2gCo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ6ewQ8YUA

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Where do you want to load your foot in relation to your center of mass ?

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Who do you want to be ? The guy loading his head over his foot
(narrow step width), or the gal loading the head and COM inside the foot (less narrow step width) ?
It is not hard to guess who is gonna be faster and more powerful from these photos. The lady is stacking the knee over the foot, the hip over the knee and stabilizing the hip and pelvis sufficiently and durably to keep the pelvis level for the next powerful loading step, and the other is flexion collapsing into the stance phase knee, insufficiently loading the hip and thus dropping the opposite side pelvis. He is not stacking the joints, there is a pending cross over (look at the swing leg knee approaching midline with barely any knee spacing, thus guaranteeing a cross over step or at the very least a very narrow step width.)
Sure, some one is going to say one is a distance runner and the other is a sprinter. Yes, and our point is that the sprinter is not head-over-foot, the one with all the highly suspect flaws is head over foot ! Wider step width means more glutes. Go ahead, walk around right now with a very narrow step width and see how little efficient glute contraction you get, then walk with a notably wider step width, and you will see wider means more glutes. Keep your COM moving forward, not oscillating back and forth sideways over each stance foot, that is a power leak.

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The distance runner is showing sloppy in technique. Say what you want, but one of these runners is weak and very likely at greater risk for injury, the other is strong and durable, and likely at less risk for injury.
If you ask us, but what do we know . . . .
So, again, was ask . . . . which one do you want to be ?

Running paths and the cross over gait and narrow step width.

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This is a walking/running path. Do the runners on this path only have one foot? No, of course not, they are running on a line. Yes, we cannot get away from this cross over gait, a terribly narrow based gait pattern.
Is it economical? Likely.
Risky ? Possibly.
Do we know that this angled attack of the foot towards the mid-line asks more from the frontal plane stabililzers in the hip and core ? Yes, research has shown this.
Do we know that the gluteus medius helps with foot targeting? Yes, research again shows this, and thus a weak gluteus medius will enable a more medial targeting. Lesson: the gluteus medius helps with foot targeting on the swing leg, and hip stability on the stance leg.
With a Cross Over gait, Do we know that we need better control of internal spin of the limb, better foot pronation durability and many other durable abilities that we might not need so much of if we were better stacking the joint? Again, yes.

We confirmed with the reader who sent the photo that this is not a bike path (at this location this path is for walking folks, the bike path is adjacent to the parking lot).
The reader (Terry B. (thank you Terry)) astutely mentioned that people are walking on a line. If they had some spacing, step width, there would be 2 trails and a tiny patch of grass between them.

But, now, this line, the line is a queue for others to "walk the line" and join the cross-over nation.
We have written gobs of articles on this cross over topic, the few benefits, the teeter-totter "risk / reward" factor, the drawbacks and injury susceptibility factor and we have spoken about it on our podcast probably 100x. IF you wish to entertain that rabbit hole of knowledge, just goto our website and type it into the "search" box. "cross over gait"

Arm swing, cross over, head over foot?

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Here is a Birdseye view of someone in full stride gait. The left leg and the right arm are into flexion and external rotation.
The right leg and left arm are into extension and internal rotation.
We discussed this in depth on our lecture on wednesday night.
These counter movements drive,and are driven by, the anti-phasic properties of normal gait.
Now, lets posture some thoughts with the head-over-foot mentality (which we do not subscribe to(listen to podcasts 135-136)). . . . You can see the clear relationships here of coupled motions of the limbs. Now imagine that you forced a cross over arm swing, pumping arm Swing across your body. This is shoulder/arm adduction. So what do you think is likely going to happen in the lower limb? Yes step width narrowing, i.e. crossover gate/Leg adduction. By forcing the arms to cross the midline you are strongly encouraging the legs to do the same thing. As we have discussed many times previously, the arms can shape the movement of the lower limbs even though the lower limbs run the primary patterns of which the arms are driven from. So if you want a crossover gait , which we have for years documented research showing biomechanical challenges, and something we see many injuries driven from, go ahead and coach and train your arm swing across the body.

When runner do you want to be? 2 photos

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Who do you want to be ? The guy loading his head over his foot
(narrow step width), or the gal loading the head and COM inside the foot (less narrow step width) ?

It is not hard to suspect who is gonna be faster and more powerful from these photos. This however does not mean on is more durable, more or less injured, more or less efficient but logical debates and thought experiments can be made here.

The lady is stacking the knee over the foot, the hip over the knee and stabilizing the hip and pelvis sufficiently and durably to keep the pelvis level for the next powerful loading step, and the other is flexion collapsing into the stance phase knee, insufficiently loading the hip and thus dropping the opposite side pelvis. He is not stacking the joints, there is a pending cross over (look at the swing leg knee approaching midline with barely any knee spacing, thus guaranteeing a cross over step or at the very least a very narrow step width.)
Sure, some one is going to say one is a distance runner and the other is a sprinter. Yes, and our point is that the sprinter is not head-over-foot, the one with all the highly suspect flaws is head over foot ! Wider step width means more glutes. Go ahead, walk around right now with a very narrow step width and see how little efficient glute contraction you get, then walk with a notably wider step width, and you will see wider means more glutes. Keep your COM moving forward, not oscillating back and forth sideways over each stance foot, that is a power leak.

The distance runner appears to be demonstrating less optimal in technique, appears is the key word here. Say what you want, but a decent argument might be made as to one of these runners being weak and very likely at greater risk for injury, the other is suspect to be strong and durable, and likely at less risk for injury.
If you ask us, but what do we know . . . . it is all a thought experiment, but based on some pretty decent ideas.
So, again, was ask . . . . which one do you want to be ?

Step width, length and gait economy.

We have talked about step with hundreds of times it seems. We get asked all the time about optimal or proper step width in our runners, especially the ones that have a tendency to drop into the higher risk category of "cross over" gait. We like to refer them to our standard reply, "many good things happen with increasing your step width, but there is no need to go beyond the hip distance width, no wider than the hips. You should find more gluteal activation there. However, this is less economical than a narrower step width. But, the narrower the step width, you are juggling the increased economy with increased liability (for injury) and riskier biomechanics. One must earn their way into the higher economy narrow step width with gaining durability in these potentially riskier narrow step with mechanics. Failure to do so is a choice taken at your own risk." This article suggest costly risks to a narrow step width as well.

From the Shorter Abstract

"Humans tend to walk economically, with preferred step width and length corresponding to an energetic optimum. In the case of step width, it is costlier to walk with either wider or narrower steps than normally preferred. Wider steps require more mechanical work to redirect the body's motion laterally with each step, but the cost for narrower steps remains unexplained. Here we show that narrow steps are costly because they require the swing leg to be circumducted around the stance leg. And, we could not agree more. There is definitely a sweet spot for every runner, finding it, and earning the durability required to fend off injury is where the magic lies. RAther than tell your runners where to place their feet , thus you defining their step width, give your clients the appropriate hip and frontal plane stability work to find their low risk sweet spot. After all, most of the foot posturing placement is dictated from the hip and pelvis mechanics, as we have written about extensively previously.

Gait Posture. 2017 Mar 23;54:265-270. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2017.03.021.

The high cost of swing leg circumduction during human walking.

Shorter KA1, Wu AR2, Kuo AD3.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28371740

A Metabolic Cost to the Cross over gait.

Here is what we know, when we put our foot on the ground, we, as humans who sit too much and tend to get into sagittal plane activities too often, things like swimming, biking, walking, running -- and do not challenge the frontal/lateral plane enough earn our way into functional problems:  "Walking appears to be passively unstable in the lateral direction, requiring active feedback control for stability. The central nervous system may control stability by adjusting medio-lateral foot placement, but potentially with a metabolic cost. This cost increases with narrow steps and may affect the preferred step width." -Donelan study


For well over 6 years now I have been working on solidifying my thoughts and theories on the cross over gait. I did our 3 part video series back in 2011 and Ivo and I have built our theories to deepen the roots on this concept since then. Since then, the more research I come across continues to serve these initial theories well and help me to hone them for my clients and runners. Some still dismiss the concept because "many professional runners have a very narrow step width and they are fine" -- that is not the point, it is deeper than that. More recently I have found it more helpful to explain it as, "a narrow step width, like all things off of the mechanical norm, have a place and some value when the environment requires it. However, it comes down to a challenge between the two issues of Economy and Liability, perhaps better put, Economy vs Stability. A  narrow step width may be more economical for moving through the sagittal plane in many ways, if they have sufficient lateral (frontal plane) endurance, but if one goes too far or for too long, that economy can become a liability and injury risk can build as one begins to tease that lateral plane."  I will ask my athletes, "how long can you be in this running economical place before you run out of gas and liabilities start to mount into the more metabolically demanding frontal plane?".  Endurance and strength are the major factors, built on skillful movement. The question remains for many athletes, "how long can you run with a narrower step width, with your present lateral hip-pelvis-core endurance and stability, before you exhaust the endurance of your protective mechanisms and expose the liabilities of those more risky frontal plane mechanics ?"

Again, from the Donelan study:
"Walking appears to be passively unstable in the lateral direction, requiring active feedback control for stability. The central nervous system may control stability by adjusting medio-lateral foot placement, but potentially with a metabolic cost. This cost increases with narrow steps and may affect the preferred step width. 
These results suggest that (a). human walking requires active lateral stabilization, (b). body lateral motion is partially stabilized via medio-lateral foot placement, (c). active stabilization exacts a modest metabolic cost, and (d). humans avoid narrow step widths because they are less stable."

- Dr. Shawn Allen, one of the gait guys

J Biomech. 2004 Jun;37(6):827-35.  Mechanical and metabolic requirements for active lateral stabilization in human walking.  Donelan JM1, Shipman DW, Kram R, Kuo AD.