In the past three months nearly every athlete I assess who is DN on their toe touch pattern remarks just how tight their hamstrings are. While this may be part of the picture, it is not the Gestalt, which you know already if you’ve been around the industry for any period of time so I will not rehash it here in great detail.
We know that manual or self-massage to the plantar fascia can improve to touch patterns without even approaching the hamstrings, we know that the cervical spine also plays a very large role as it is a hub for many pieces of the tensegrity network so work in that area may be a “big bang for your buck” area in attempting to find the reset for toe touch patterns. Pollard and Ward in 1997 for example demonstrated that simple PNF to the suboccipital crowd resulted in a 13% gain in mobility at the hip whereas hamstring stretching only regained 9% of the arc.
The hamstrings are additionally important in running gait and can influence via both joints upon which they act how efficiently the swing leg moves and how powerfully the stance leg can propel you.
These are things you already know.
What you may also wonder is if there is a reciprocal or at minimum some connection between the hamstrings and suboccipitals and the hamstrings influence running performance in a few ways, can the suboccipitals do the same? Perhaps this snippet from famed manual therapist Robert Schleip may shed some light on that idea:
…a verbal report I heard from Hubert Godard about an interesting research in Italy: runners on a treadmill would unconsciously increase their running speed when a bioelectrical device on their neck lowered the tonus of the upper neck muscles. Whereas increasing the tonus of these muscles made them slow down their speed, although they were not aware of this and perceived their speed as constant. So a stiff occiput-neck connection will tend to ‘put a break’ into the legs via shortening of the hamstrings, and a long and loose occiput-neck connection will take ‘the break out’ by lengthening the midrange of hamstring length and will make the legs swing much faster and easier.
How significant this is I am unsure at this time, however, it’s one more thing to consider with the “what else” methodology. Perhaps restrictions in the cervical spine are costing you seconds or minutes depending on your race distance while also potentially becoming problematic in the long run.