The Green Minute aka Saucony Stride Lab

Allspice

Allspice

Janet has written 27 posts on Salty Running.

I'm a fitness fanatic who was born to run. I have two amazing sons, live in Wyoming (but I'm planning my escape), and plan to keep getting older without ever getting old.

BRC cherry creek

Boulder Running Company Cherry Creek. img © J. Sherman

In an upscale community in the heart of Denver, Colorado lies a runner’s paradise. It’s called Boulder Running Company Cherry Creek, and it’s the home of a state-of-the-art running assessment that previously has only available to elite runners, or non-elites who could lay down a lot of cash.  A modest, narrow green band in the floor is actually a $150,000 treadmill. There are only 11 others in the United States, and this is the only one located in a retail facility and available to the general public.

Since BRC Cherry Creek opened in early April, many runners have made a pilgrimage to admire the latest and greatest running store in Colorado, and to take advantage of this assessment,   I made my own pilgrimage last Friday, and after admiring all the shiny new running shoes, clothes, and gear, it was my turn for a visit to the Saucony Stride Lab. Read on to find out why it’s worth the pilgrimage!

First of all, the Stride Lab isn’t just your average treadmill assessment!  Anyone who has purchased a pair of running shoes from a running store has most likely been asked to run on the store’s treadmill in various pairs of shoes while the sales staff watches you for pronation issues. And while that’s okay, it’s not an in-depth form assessment and doesn’t tell you much about other elements of your running form that really matter.

An in-depth assessment from one of these super treadmills, in addition to the foot strike/lateral movement analysis from the treadmill itself, uses cameras to report on so much more:

  • vertical displacement (up and down movement)
  • how the upper body moves
  • hip drop
  • angle of knee at impact
  • amount of hip extension
  • body rotation
  • degree of pronation
  • where the foot strikes the ground (heel, midfoot, forefoot)
  • and where the foot lands in relation to the body.

Assessing these elements will help identify areas that could become problematic and contribute to future (or current) injuries. It might also help identify changes that could be made to improve running efficiency.

Unfortunately, unless you have access to a research facility or university testing setting, you’re out of luck if you want one of these in-depth analyses. Some medical professionals offer assessments, but these can be cost-prohibitive unless covered by insurance. For these reasons, driving 100 miles to visit the stride lab was absolutely worth it for me.

Since all the other super ‘mills are kept in research and university facilities, why is this one in a running store?

According to my tester guy, Saucony made the investment so they can use the data from running assessments for product research and development. They’ll make note of how many runners would benefit from certain types of shoes and, of course, what shoes the runners being tested are wearing. If not Saucony, why not?

stride lab

This isn’t me, but this is the magic green treadmill, and a glimpse inside the Stride Lab.
Photo Credit: BRC Facebook Page

After receiving a brief rundown of what the assessment would entail, I slipped a neon yellow belt around my hips (so the cameras could more easily gauge any hip drop), stepped on the treadmill, and my assessment technician fired it up. The goal was to bring me from a walk to an easy pace, and for me to run at that pace for about a minute. I was supposed to run “naturally” and not look at my reflection on the huge screen in front of me (yeah, I didn’t peek at all). While I was running there were 4 cameras filming me from various angles, and the treadmill was measuring the force of my foot strikes, whether or not I struck harder with one foot than the other, and how much side-to-side movement I generated. The belt was quite a bit more narrow than a normal treadmill, so I really had to concentrate to stay in the center. The minute passed quickly, and I really didn’t want to stop.

While my technician was letting his fingers fly over the computer keyboard to gather the test results, I was surprised to realize I was really nervous. What if I had something horribly wrong with my stride? What if I looked like Phoebe in that episode of Friends when she ran through Central Park with her arms and legs flailing? It calmed my fears a little to know there is a physical therapist “in residence” so if something was broken, I could consult with a professional to help me fix it. Luckily I didn’t see Phoebe while watching my film, and amazingly there wasn’t much wrong with my form.

My results reported a very efficient, “almost perfect” stride. I’m a moderate heel striker, but I roll through quickly from heel to midfoot to toe, so he didn’t suggest changing anything there. I strike the ground evenly with both feet, not too hard or too softly – all okay there. I have very little up and down or side-to-side movement, my upper body rotation is what it should be, my arms match my stride and are placed appropriately (don’t cross the body, my hands don’t go too high, etc.). I don’t over stride, and he felt like my cadence is appropriate. No hip drop (thank you clam shells and glute bridges), my hip extension is good, my knee angles are good, my shoes keep my feet from pronating too much (he said I don’t need the Superfeet inserts I sometimes use), and the Brooks Adrenaline shoes I wear appear to be an excellent shoe choice for me. His only suggestion was for me to work on going from a very straight back to a slight forward lean (from the ankles), which would make me a bit more efficient.

I was so relieved at the assessment results, and really wanted to get the “almost perfect” part in writing, even though he was only referring to my running form. Having an analysis like this has been on my wish list for such a long time, and I still can’t believe it was absolutely free!

If you have any excuse to make your way to Denver, I encourage you to visit Boulder Running Company Cherry Creek and make an appointment in the Saucony Stride Lab. And if it’s absolutely impossible, call your local running store or sports med clinics and ask if they can recommend a facility where you can have a similar assessment done. It’s well worth your time!

Have you ever looked into an in-depth running assessment? If you got one, has it helped you become a better runner?  If not, what prevented you from going through with it?

11 Responses to “The Green Minute aka Saucony Stride Lab”

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  1. Ye olde running shoppe has certainly come a long way.

  2. Kathy says:

    Woot! I’m running the Boulder Marathon next time I go visit the in laws, now I have one more fun item to check out. Thanks!

  3. runnerjan says:

    Jack – It certainly has!

    Kathy – I’m glad you’re going to check it out. It’ll be well worth your time. The Boulder Marathon was my first, and it was great.

  4. Garlic says:

    I have mixed feelings about gait analysis. The coach I used to train with is really into it so I had it done 3 times – both on a treadmill and outside on the track. He has since purchased an Optogait (which is I think like the treadmill you are describing here), which he didn’t have at the time I did the video gait analyses with him, but what I had was still pretty extensive. On the one hand, I think it’s interesting and can be helpful to know about imbalances/deficiencies, etc., especially if there’s a chronic injury pattern. But all these measurements can tell you is the “problems” are there and they don’t shed light on why the runner is manifesting these gait patterns. And, trust me, there are myriad reasons for why someone’s gait pattern is the way it is and no quick easy fix. It takes months and sometimes years of working through the issues with someone who is both expert and willing to closely monitor – and without that kind of time commitment and expert monitoring, trying to correct what was found in a gait analysis can lead to much more harm than good. So I think for most people, concentrating on developing a sound baseline level of athleticism to underlie your running is much safer and more effective than fixating on the minutiae of gait analysis.

    • Salty Salty says:

      This is a really really good point. I think of this stuff as satisfying a curiosity, but personally, the thought of having to micromanage myself running zaps the fun right out of it.

    • Stridelab is unique – visualizing how your GRF (ground-reaction forces) travel through the body is a great feedback tool. Optogait, and any other “gait analysis” systems you have seen out there do not offer this level of objectivity or depth with so little prep-time and post-processing. In other words, this is a totally new approach to analyzing stride, and if done properly, you can benefit tremendously from small adjustments – obviously there is a limit to how obsessive you want to be about minute things while running… but more information can be awesome if you take it for what it is and don’t try to reinvent your stride every other step!

      • Garlic says:

        It sounds cool, I just think it’s a slippery slope for most runners. But I agree – the key is really what you do with the information. Thanks for the comment!

  5. runnerjan says:

    The guy who did the assessment cautioned me that the analysis was just that – an analysis, and that many factors contribute to a person’s gait and running form. I don’t believe it was his intention to recommend a “fix” for what the assessment showed.

  6. Catnip Catnip says:

    So interesting! Thanks for reporting on this. I wish I’d had an analysis done prior to getting pregnant to get a good baseline. 6 mos postpartum now and doing well, but I still have that nagging worry that something subtle may be off.

  7. Stacey says:

    Do you have to pay for the assessment?

  8. runnerjan says:

    Stacey – It was absolutely free! I did call ahead and schedule it, which I would suggest. I had my assessment shortly after they started doing them, and I imagine it’s become more popular since then.

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