Many articles have been written regarding running stride and which style of running or stride type is best for you. The NY Times recently covered this and the answer may surprise you, however, bad habits may affect your stride and your impact with the ground in ways you could never imagine.
The truth is, we learn to walk with our own body mechanics, and learn to compensate for any inefficiencies our mechanical systems have built into them. In other words, the more we are built asymmetrically, the more we require compensation in both the lower and upper body to maintain balance when walking.
Running strides that come naturally have compensations built into them as well. This natural occurrence has recently been studied by scientists who recently published in the May International Journal of Exercise Science. They studied 19 division one runners and another group of runners who performed different activities and over two minutes on a treadmill measured natural and intentionally modified running strides and found that natural running strides were more efficient.
Their conclusion of course is that your natural stride is the best and most efficient. You can read the article here.
On the other hand, it has been our experience that you can improve efficiencies in running shoes with a foot orthotic. We have done dozens of videos with and without inserts and found that with the inserts, running stride became more symmetrical as well as the counter stride from the upper back. The improved efficiency improves the ability to run faster without expending more energy. It is my conclusion that this works because leveling out the feet levels out the pelvis and improves the way the core engages.
One of the most common compensations in the upper body from an asymmetrical stride is to shrug ones shoulders and not allow them to properly counter stride in response to the lower body. When a runner does this, it is like breaking when you are trying to accelerate. This mechanism of compensation will increase the amount of energy you use and slow you down, and force you to over and under stride. This type of compensation also increases the force of impact with the ground, possibly being one of the main reasons stress fractures and stress reactions occur. By teaching runners how to relax their shoulders over a period of months, our patients experience fewer lower extremity injuries and improve their efficiency.
Perhaps, a better way to change and improve the efficiency of a runner and their stride is from the ground up, beginning with the right footwear for their body style and the right insert to level their hips and improve core effectiveness.