Gender Differences Affect Running Biomechanics

That men and women are built differently is obvious. However, most people probably don’t know how these subtle differences affect sport performance.  This month we will look at the ways women are unique from men and how these differences affect running.

Differences in Body Structure

  • The female pelvis is wider than the male pelvis. This causes an increased angle at the knee, called a “Q angle.” This increased Q angle causes the ankle to roll more, a movement called pronation.

Image result for q angle

  • In general women have smaller and weaker muscles than men.
  • Women tend to be much more flexible than men. Additionally, their ligaments are more lax, especially in the ankles and feet. This allows the ankles and feet to absorb the stresses of running so there is less strain on the knees.
  • The forefoot-to-heel width ratio is larger in women.

Implications for Female Athletes

  • Women have a higher risk of ACL tears than men due to their larger Q angle. Injury prevention is important for women who play impact sports, especially soccer and basketball.
  • Overuse injuries can be more likely to occur in women because of how the lower extremity absorbs the forces during running. Because the female ankle pronates more than the male ankle, female runners tend to develop more plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.
  • Researchers are recognizing that women likely require a different support platform (shoe type) than men. Many companies are developing specific shoes for women that take into account the unique biomechanics of the female ankle and foot.

If you are a female runner and you are experiencing difficulty or pain with running, you may benefit from a running gait analysis and evaluation by one of our skilled physical therapists.