Course Review: Chris Johnson Treadmill Analysis Workshop

I was very lucky to be mentored by Chris Johnson after PT school.  I observed and worked part-time in his clinic for almost a year.  I learned a tremendous amount from him and was excited to get an update on his approach during his Treadmill Analysis Workshop this past Wednesday.

Chris is the premier running expert.  He doesn’t practice what he preaches, he’s a master of it (2x Kona Qualifier).  He dives deep into research to stay current on the latest evidence and to improve care.  And most importantly, he spends a ton of time treating and training endurance athletes.

Needless to say, he has some valuable information to share.

Take Home

It’s all about cadence.  Increasing step rate is a control parameter that causes many advantageous changes (decreased stress on knees, hip, less vertical mass oscillation, less energy absorption, decreased ground reaction forces, etc.).  You want people to be around 170-180 steps/minute.  Assessing cadence should be a priority in your running analysis.

4 S’s to Look at

  • Strike (Rearfoot, Midfoot, Forefoot)
  • Sound (Overstrike, Slap, Clunk)
  • Step Rate (# of contacts/min)
  • Shoes

17 Random Things I Learned During the Course

*many of these are either quotes from Chris or paraphrased

1) #1 activity outside of running is lifting weights

2) If you run and you don’t lift, you’ll get injured

3) Fastest runners he sees tend to over pronate and be toe out (pathomechanics aren’t the end all be all)

4) Strike patterns will likely change during the race

5) Most injuries occur at knee and below (endurance running)

6) Faster you run, the more the forces shift proximally

7) My Favorite Quote From the Course – It’s not born to run, it’s built to run”

8) Strength, control, and range requirement increase with increased time on ground

9) Increased step rate of 10% did not increase O2 consumption or HR.  Chris recommends increasing between 5-10%, depending on the individual.

10) A step rate below 160 is a problem

11) Glute max not important for endurance runners. It’s more about the glute med.

12) Say “Full footed stride” instead of heel strike. Heel strike has a negative connotation now.  #PsychologicalPriming

13) Overall Goal – get people running barefoot in shoes

14) Have people run with a metronome

15) Music matters

16) Pump arms faster and your feet will catch up (increasing cadence)

17) Running is rhythm and timing

The Protocol

It so simple it’s mind blowing.  I’ve already done this a couple times in the clinic with great outcomes.

  1. Count the steps on one leg for 30 seconds
  2. Multiply by 4 (156 on L pic)
  3. Increase no more than 10% (164 in this case)
  4. Hold up metronome to patient and give only one cue
  5. “Run to the beat of the metronome” (right pic)


A video posted by Aaron Swanson (@aswansonpt) on


Chris has tons of running drills on his YouTube page.  Many of his exercises deal with practicing the skill of running and preparing the body for an efficient midstance phase.  Why would you let someone run if they can’t perform a clean single leg hop?

He has an insane attention to detail and, as you can see, is very strict with the movement.

I highly recommend checking out his page.

Bottom Line

I remember my brother coming home from one of his drumming lesson and he couldn’t wait to show me the new beat that he had just learned.  Apparently, he learned a drum beat that allows you to play 80% of all popular rock and pop songs.  Surely this didn’t allow him to play Buddy Rich, but mastering this pocket beat allowed him to play most songs on the radio.  He could easily jam with many other musicians after learning that beat.

Chris didn’t dive into the complexity of running.  Instead, he showed us the most effective “pocket beat” for runners.  It may not fix every runner, but I bet it will help at least 80% of them.  

Overall it was a great workshop and I highly recommend to anyone that runs or works with runners.

Dig Deeper

Effects of step rate manipulation on joint mechanics during running.

Energy absorption reduced @ knee & hip when step rate increased above preferred

Increasing step rate by 10%

Reduced impact load

Less vertical center of mass (COM) velocity at landing

Less energy absorption or (-) work Greatest effect @ the knee

Increased step rate 10% did not increase O2 consumption or HR

Hip muscle loads during running at various step rates

With increased step rate, mm forces observed to increase during late swing, particularly from the HS & gluteals

Increasing running step rate reduces patellofemoral joint forces

Influence of Stride Frequency and Length on Running Mechanics: A Systematic Review

There was consistent evidence that increased stride rate resulted in decreased center of mass vertical excursion, ground reaction force, shock attenuation, and energy absorbed at the hip, knee, and ankle joints.

Decreased ground contact time yielded a sig increase leg stiffness.  Conversely, decreased ground contact time sig increase leg stiffness

Select Injury-Related Variables Are Affected by Stride Length and Foot Strike Style During Running

Increased stride width leads to decreased frontal plane forces (i.e. decreased ITB stress)

Step width increases linearly as stride length decreases

Biomechanical Differences of Foot-Strike Patterns During Running: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis


Variation in Foot Strike Patterns during Running among Habitually Barefoot Populations

Foot strike patterns of recreational and sub-elite runners in a long-distance road race

Prospective comparison of running injuries between shod and barefoot runners



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