Want more stability when trail running? Try this…

While running the other morning through about 6-8” of fresh snow (yes, it is snowing here already at 9000 feet), something occurred to me as I almost fell several times due to the undulating surface beneath my feet and the terrain to match under that.

“I need to do something to improve my proprioception, or I am going to fall (again)” I thought (yes, we both think about this stuff while running or exercising! No, I was not listening to music on this run, though cranking up some AC/DC was tempting..). If I were to increase my surface area on the snow, and make myself less top heavy, I would be more stable. How could I accomplish that?

Here is what I did, and it worked great!

First, I spread my toes. No, I wasn’t barefoot, but in my Altra Lone Peak 1.5’s; why not maximize the real estate available to my feet in these roomy shoes?

Next, I widened my stance (or base of gait). My massive 145# spread over a larger surface area would be more stable and provide stability from my weight distributed over a larger surface area.

Third, I raised my arms out from my sides (no I didn’t try to fly) to provide more input from my upper extremities to my proprioceptive system (more input from peripheral joint and muscle mechanoreceptors = more input to cerebellum = better balance)

Lastly, I slowed down from my blistering 10 min mile pace. Though this did not improve my surface area, it did give my aging nervous system more time to react.

It occurred to me that these actions were all “primitive” reactions of the nervous system when learning to walk. We did a post on that when my youngest son was learning to walk a few years ago.

Want to have better balance?

  • Spread your toes
  • Widen your stance
  • Raise your arms
  • Slow down

Notice I didn’t say this would make you faster. Who is more likely to fall on a corner when being chased by a predator; the tortoise or the hare?


A little practical neurology for you this morning brought to you by the geeks of gait. Ivo and Shawn.