“When you run up a hill, most of the cross over gait disappears. Runners will tend toward beautifully stacked lower limb joints.”- Dr. Allen
Are people running up a hill more likely to tend towards a cross over gait style, in other words tend toward a more narrow gait step or a wider gait step ?
Watch people run up hill closely. Even if they are cross over (narrow foot fall) runners, when running up hills a few things will negate much of the narrow foot fall.
1- Running up hill requires more gluteals, more power is needed for all that extra required hip extension to power up the hill. More gluteal max use can, and will, spill over into the posterior fibers of the gluteus medius and this will tend to abduct the leg/hip and reduce some of the cross over tendency.
2- When one runs up a hill, there is a forward pitch of the upper torso, often with a some degree of forward pitch occurring at the hips. More importantly, because one is running up hill, they are stepping up and so more than normal hip flexion is necessary than in normal running. The forward pitch of the body and the greater degree of hip flexion is the culprit here. If the hip/leg is adducted in a cross over style, adding this to a more than normal flexing hip, it will create a scenario for anterior hip impingement and risk of femoral acetabular impingement (FAI) syndromes. Go ahead, test it for yourself. Lie on your back and flex your hip, drawing your knee straight up towards your shoulder. Pretty good range correct ? Now, flex the hip drawing your knee towards your navel, adducting it a little across your body. Feel the abrupt range of motion loss and possible pinch in the front of the hip ? FAI. This is what would happen if you utilized a cross over gait, narrow foot strike gait. The goes for mountain/sleep hill hikers as well.
This is why, if you are a narrow foot striker, a near-cross over type of runner, you will see it disappear when you run up hills.
If you get anterior hip pain running up hills, force a wider step width and reduce the possible impingement at the anterior hip joint. Just make sure you have enough ankle dorsiflexion to tackle the hill in the first place. If not, you may welcome some foot and ankle stuff to the table along with the hip.
Likely obvious stuff to most of the readers here, but sometimes it is nice to point out the obvious. Hills, just because they are there, doesn’t mean you have the parts to run them safely.
Dr. Shawn Allen