serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Backward running benefits?

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Has anyone ever tried running backward for an extended distance? I’ve only done it for short stretches on casual jogs and clearly it’s completely unnatural. Knees are meant to bend in one direction and without eyes in the back of our heads it’s uncomfortable watching where we’re running. Yet some claim there are benefits to running backward:

Some believe that running backwards helps balance out the strain brought on by normal running. Reversing the direction works the friction of tissues oppositely. Running flat or uphill, the heel is used to push off rather than the ball of the foot as normally occurs with forward running, working the tibialis anterior muscle (pushes the heel down, raises front of foot) more as a prime mover than a shock absorber. (Wikipedia)

Understandably running backward can work different muscles than running forward so perhaps there are some cross training benefits to the practice. But can it really balance the strain of running forward? I imagine running backward to undo strain is kinda like trying to drive a car in reverse to remove mileage from the odometer: Instead of undoing stress to the car caused by high mileage you’re actually introducing new stress by overusing your reverse gear. The unofficial record for running a mile backward is just over 5:45 – pretty impressive even for a forward mile!

Running backward can be a fun way to spice up your runs but use caution and build up to it gradually – it’s definitely not for everyone!