Running requires no equipment, little thought, and from an early age, kids seem to run a lot more than they walk – so it should all come pretty naturally to them, right?
Not exactly. As kids sports medicine experts here in Melbourne’s Point Cook, we often hear from parents that are concerned for their children that appear to run a bit slower than others in their sports team or class. They worry it may affect their ability to make top-tier sports teams, that it may affect their confidence, or even discourage them from sports altogether. It’s a very real concern, and as such, we’d like to start answering the age-old question of “why is my child slower than others?” with another question:
If you ask a young child about how they run, the most common theme you’ll get in response is that they just run as fast as possible. There’s little consideration aside from this, and when they’re very young, there really doesn’t need to be more to it. As kids grow, develop, enter school and start competitive sports, however, things change greatly.
While we go through the next few tips and strategies, remember to try not to compare your child to others. Just like how some kids are naturally great at puzzles or the arts, some have a naturally good running technique, strength and biomechanical function. These are all things that can be worked on and improved upon, whether you want to up your child’s reading game or their running game, and there is plenty of time.
Don’t be confused by the word biomechanics – we simply mean how your child’s feet and legs, as well as the muscles, bones, joints and ligaments that comprise them, work together to create movement.
Taking intel from a study that compared the running mechanics between children and adults, they found the biggest difference between running slower and faster is a result of these two patterns:
If you’ve read that and are finding it a little bit confusing, the main point is that those that run faster have greater demands on their bodies. And if their muscles (as well as many other factors we haven’t even touched on like co-ordination, ability to absorb shock to help minimise injury risk and fatigue) can’t meet the variety of demands, then they won’t be able to run faster – or won’t know what to do to help train themselves to run faster.
Of course, when we discuss anything biomechanics-related, we also pay close attention to the structural alignment of the feet and legs – something we spend all day examining in both kids and adults. There are many variations to our alignment and foot posture that may place us in the “not likely to run optimally naturally” basket. However, and perhaps the beauty of what we do here, is that we can easily address this and alter the way our feet and legs perform, so while it’s a very important consideration and critical to efficient, fast, running – it can all be improved upon, and without much difficulty.
Let’s point out a few reasons why your child may be running slower naturally. It’s really important that any factors identified by your podiatrist are addressed, otherwise, it’s likely trying to beat your personal best on a fractured foot. If you don’t have the right foundations in place, there will always be something holding you back, and you’ll never reach your goal (with much frustration for both parent and child).
Here are examples of things that may be holding your child back:
If your child needs help with their running, their gait in general, or reading this has flagged that maaaaybe their knee injury may not be as ‘sorted’ as they had led you to believe, then the best place to start is with an appointment with one of our podiatrists here at Sole Motion.
Children and sports are one of our specialities – something that not many other clinics can say, and it’s important to be working with health professionals that understand kids and the unique demands on their bodies. We’re also parents of school-aged kids too! So we are very much going through it all ourselves at the same time.
We’ll start with a comprehensive biomechanical assessment, including a video gait and running analysis, to understand exactly what’s happening with your child’s feet and legs, and why they’re experiencing what they are. Next, we’ll form a plan to address any problems and deficiencies to help your child get to where they want to be, smash their goals, and help them become the next sports-star!