Become A Runner, Part 1: Proper Running Form

13 Aug, 2019 • by Admin

Here’s what you need to know about good running form, including what’s worth paying attention to if you’re a recreational runner

Changing your running style can be frustrating. The best way to approach it is to choose a point that interests you and focus on it. Don’t feel like you have to change something right away. Explore your running style and look for ways to make it feel “lighter” with the help of the suggested tips. Add some running drills to your training for better form – this will help change your running form unconsciously.

Related Terminologies

  • Posture : The position in which you hold your body (specifically your core in this case)
  • Alignment : Runners’ bodies should be aligned from head to foot in a vertical line (more on this later)
  • Foot Strike : Where your foot hits the ground
  • Arm Swing : Kind of self-explanatory (how your arms swing while in running motion) but we’ll dive in more later
  • Cadence : The total number of steps taken per minute
  • Braking Force : Force against the forward motion of your running body, often from landing in front of your center of gravity (heel striking, etc)
  • Pelvic Drop : When your hip drops too much while the other leg is supporting all your weight during the stance phase
  • Rotation : Think of this as another way of saying “twisting”
  • Bounce : When your body goes up and down each step (instead of maintaining a forward motion only)

Balanced Posture

Keep your posture straight and erect. Your head should be up, your back straight, and shoulders level. Keep your shoulders under your ears and maintain a neutral pelvis. Make sure you're not leaning forward or back at your waist, which some runners do as they get fatigued.

Check your posture once in a while. When you're tired at the end of your run, it's common to slump over a little, which can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain. When you feel yourself slouching, poke your chest out.

Maintaining good form at the end of your run is important for fighting off fatigue and finishing strong.

Look Ahead

You might think running is all about your lower body, but your run technique needs to be dialed in from the top down. That said, don’t look at your feet. Don’t tilt your chin up or down, which happens when people get tired.

Really, your eyes can look anywhere, but a focused gaze helps maintain proper posture, which keeps your neck in proper alignment with your spine. The classic thing I'll see is a person starting their run with their head, meaning their head is always in front of their body. You want to have your ears in line with your shoulders.

Relax Shoulders

Tension in your shoulders, neck or upper back can inhibit your arm motion. You need your arms to provide balance, rhythm and power as you run.

As with your legs, the faster you go, the bigger the arm motion should be. Conversely, running slowly should require small, yet still active motions of the arms, swinging from the shoulder. The movement pattern doesn’t change, only the size of movement.

This will take some getting used to, but as you get fatigued keep your arms moving, as they help to keep the legs working at a steady rhythm.

Foot Strike

How your foot contacts the ground is NOT that important. Don’t try to transition to a midfoot strike or (worse) a forefoot strike. Too many Born to Run evangelists read McDougall’s bestseller and immediately tried to run barefoot on the middle part of their foot.

The reason that foot strike has become such a hot topic is because runners want to avoid the heel-smashing, aggressive heel-strike type of foot landing. This is a good thing! But, you don’t correct an aggressive heel-strike by trying to land on your midfoot.

Optimal Cadence

Cadence is the number of steps you take per minute (with both feet). The magic number for optimal cadence is thought to be180 steps per minute, according to the legendary running coach Jack Daniels who observed at the 1984 Olympics that this was the average cadence of most elite runners.

But this isn’t a hard and fast number—it’s just a general guideline. When you’re running at an easy, comfortable pace, your cadence should be at least 170 steps per minute.

An average cadence of at least 170 for easy runs means you’ll reduce impact forces on your legs, cut your injury risk, and even improve your running efficiency. How? With a shorter, faster stride, you’re “bounding” less and not introducing the stress that accompanies longer, more impactful strides. In other words, you’ll get hurt less often and probably get faster.

The next time you go for an easy run, count the number of times your foot lands in one minute, then double it (to account for both feet) to get your cadence. If your step rate is under 170, work on increasing it by roughly five percent every two to three weeks until your cadence increases.

Take Away

Running form has become a hot topic in recent years. Because running injuries are so widespread, runners look to change their form in hopes of avoiding injured downtime. The most important thing to remember is there is no perfect form. Here's my favorite form:

  • Keep your head straight
  • Don't hunch your shoulders
  • Keep your hands relaxed
  • Keep your arms at 90 degrees
  • Lean forward while running
  • Keep your hips stable
  • Don't lift your knees too high
  • Aim for a mid-foot strike
  • Don't strike the ground heavily
  • Breathe deeply and rhythmically

Running is a repetitive sport that places a great deal of stress on your body. If you’re not prepared to handle that stress efficiently, you may suffer an injury. Some variations in form can place added stress on areas of your body that might eventually cause you to break down.

The more efficiently you run, the faster and farther you’re able to run with less effort. While some of this is a result of muscle memory that comes over months and years of training, changes in form can expedite this process.


Explore more similar news