Where Runners Go to Improve


Avichai Assouline

Columbia RunLab is a unique program that offers biomechanical analysis for runners of all levels and experience. The clinic offers high-level evaluation to help runners optimize their performance.

The program is housed in Columbia’s physical therapy doctoral program. Colleen M. Brough, DPT, founder of RunLab and assistant professor of rehabilitation & regenerative medicine, directs the clinic with a group of DPT students. 

The RunLab can evaluate three to four runners each evening for a one-time personal evaluation, either to enhance performance or to offer help with an ongoing injury. Each runner cycles through four data collection stations in which DPT students identify specific maladaptive movement mechanics, conduct biomechanical assessment of specific joints of the foot and ankle, utilize manual muscle testing to identify potential weaknesses or muscle dysfunction most applicable to running, and film runners using three camera views to collect data such as stride length, step length, cadence, foot strike, and asymmetrical movements. 

Once all data have been collected, runners participate in a discussion with the RunLab team, in which the DPT students and physical therapists review the findings of each runner with attention to the participant’s goals, running history, and injury risks. Following the discussion, runners receive a treatment program and recommendations to target weakened muscles and address running form. 

The clinic focuses on the runners, but Dr. Brough’s goal is also to enhance the student educational experience, provide early exposure to the clinical environment, and provide a research platform for teaching and learning medicine. “We see positive impact of a team-centered learning environment among our students,” says Dr. Brough. “We see development of patient-centered clinical problem-solving skills, with enhanced learning that occurs through peer learning. The students get a unique opportunity to share the clinical problem-solving experience with each other as well as with the patient.” 

Dr. Brough also promotes public service. The clinic offers complimentary service to groups with special needs in the running community who use running as therapy. One such group is the Wounded Warrior Project, which manages PTSD symptoms among veterans through endurance running. “We value the support these organizations provide the running community,” says Dr. Brough. 

To schedule a personal evaluation at the RunLab, call 212-342-3287.