A 10% Increase in Step Rate Improves Running Kinematics and Clinical Outcomes in Runners With Patellofemoral Pain at 4 Weeks and 3 Months

Christopher Bramah, Stephen J Preece, Niamh Gill, Lee Herrington
American Journal of Sports Medicine 2019, 47 (14): 3406-3413

BACKGROUND: Aberrant frontal-plane hip and pelvis kinematics have been frequently observed in runners with patellofemoral pain (PFP). Gait retaining interventions have been shown to improve running kinematics and may therefore be beneficial in runners with PFP.

PURPOSE: To investigate whether a 10% increase in the running step rate influences frontal-plane kinematics of the hip and pelvis as well as clinical outcomes in runners with PFP.

STUDY DESIGN: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

METHODS: Runners with PFP underwent a 3-dimensional gait analysis to confirm the presence of aberrant frontal-plane hip and/or pelvis kinematics at baseline. A total of 12 participants with frontal-plane hip and/or pelvis kinematics 1 standard deviation above a reference database were invited to undergo the gait retraining intervention. Running kinematics along with clinical outcomes of pain and functional outcomes were recorded at baseline, 4 weeks after retraining, and 3 months. Gait retraining consisted of a single session where step rate was increased by 10% using an audible metronome. Participants were asked to continue their normal running while self-monitoring their step rate using a global positioning system smartwatch and audible metronome.

RESULTS: After gait retraining, significant improvements in running kinematics and clinical outcomes were observed at 4-week and 3-month follow-up. Repeated-measures analysis of variance with post hoc Bonferroni correction ( P < .016) showed significant reductions in peak contralateral pelvic drop (mean difference [MD], 3.12° [95% CI, 1.88°-4.37°]), hip adduction (MD, 3.99° [95% CI, 2.01°-5.96°]), and knee flexion (MD, 4.09° [95% CI, 0.04°-8.15°]) as well as significant increases in self-reported weekly running volume (MD, 13.78 km [95% CI, 4.62-22.93 km]) and longest run pain-free (MD, 6.84 km [95% CI, 3.05-10.62 km]). Friedman test with a post hoc Wilcoxon signed-rank test showed significant improvements on a numerical rating scale for worst pain in the past week and the Lower Extremity Functional Scale.

CONCLUSION: A single session of gait retraining using a 10% increase in step rate resulted in significant improvements in running kinematics, pain, and function in runners with PFP. These improvements were maintained at 3-month follow-up. It is important to assess for aberrant running kinematics at baseline to ensure that gait interventions are targeted appropriately.

REGISTRATION: NCT03067545 ( identifier).

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