For runners, what is very important is proper running form. Paying attention to our running gait will allow us to run longer distances at a greater intensity while experiencing less pain and discomfort.
Should You Change Your Running Form?
Correcting our running stride shouldn’t be a massive overhaul, that’s too much for our brain to handle. There’s also a lot of data to show that it may be unnecessary.
We all run a little bit differently and it turns out that’s ok, we have different body types.
Many runners are advocating for various optimal running forms, but as runners we shouldn’t try to run any different form, we should focus on our body naturally. We should enjoy running, and worry less about only focusing on running high speed.
When we try to lengthen or shorten our stride to fit a perfect ideal recommended stride, we end up using a lot more energy.
Instead of focusing on how far to move our legs, we should let them flow and think about these little running mechanics instead.
These simple tweaks do not require us to change our stride according to the main recommendations. One of the issues we have with so many running form recommendations is that they want us to stray from our natural stride. We have to focus on a good running form according to our body type.
Proper Running Form Tips
Our primary focus in any changes to our form is to reduce injury rate and help us increase efficiency. We can do this by focusing on our body type and foot type. And to follow these 4 running form tips are very efficient to follow each different type of body form and shape.
During each run, we should check our form using these 4 running form tips. To help you remember them more easily, I’ve created the acronym STAR
The acronym will be helpful every time we want to improve our running form.
1. Relax Your Shoulders
For most people one of the first places to noticeably feel tension is the shoulders, if ours are beginning to resemble earrings it’s time to relax.
For people who tend to sit at their computers all day, it will lead to a natural posture of rounded shoulders.
In the same way, we tend to round our shoulders while we’re running and feeling fatigued.
To release the shoulders, we have to take a deep breath and sigh, we should feel our shoulders drop immediately
Throughout the run do this to eliminate energy wasted in shoulder tension.
Dropped shoulders will open your chest up for better breathing while running.
2. Stand Tall
As we begin to fatigue our natural inclination is to stand thinking that we are letting our body relax.
This curved body position makes running harder because we’re not engaging the core, tightening the lungs and effecting us mentally.
A good running posture is much like good posture the rest of the time. We want shoulders down, head high and core tightened.
Pull up from the top of your head.
Stretch your arms diagonally up to help you stand tall, chest forward with just a slight lean from the ankles.
Chin parallel to the ground look forward, not down at your feet. You want to gaze straight ahead, instead of looking down at the ground or at your watch.
A focused, forward gaze will also help you maintain a proper posture by keeping your neck in proper alignment with your spine.
Standing tall increases energy through better breathing and a body feeling that creates confidence. But to lean forward slightly, not bending our back forward, will produce a good more comfortable running form
3. Efficient Arm Movements
Many beginner runners hold their arms against their sides, up to their chest while running. Interestingly, this actually requires 12% more energy than letting them naturally swing.
Long-distance running form, such as the kind for running a marathon, is different from the form for sprints.
While sprinters need to pump their arms fiercely through a full swing, distance runners are conserving energy with small movements.
Being an efficient runner for long-distance running is essential, we need to conserve all the energy we can so it can go to our legs and whole body.
Here are a few arm movement tips to keep us from swinging across the body or too hard, both of which can lead to IT Band and other injuries.
Imagine holding a butterfly wing or potato chip between your thumb and pointer finger.
Hands in a light fist with palms facing towards your body.
The thumb tip is pointed forward and the thumb knuckles towards the sky.
This hand placement helps to prevent cross-body arm swing, which is an injury magnet.
Arms should stay bent at the elbows at a roughly 90-degree angle, forward and back.
4. Relax Your Body
How can we tell when someone is really concentrating? Their eyes narrow, their brow furrows, and maybe even their lips purse.
All of this might be great for communication, but on the run it wastes energy that could be used for propelling us forward and farther
Tell to yourself “relax, let go” a few times during a hard effort.
Muscles you didn’t realize were tense just release, the effort becomes much easier.
Relaxed muscles respond with an easier turnover, better stride, and less wasted energy.
Smile during the run to activate your brain and body positively.
How to Improve Running Form
Proper running form is according to our body type. As we’ve already said there is not one perfect running form for every runner, but there are a few tips which will reduce load on our knees and muscles, and follow our body shape and strength.
1. Stop Overstriding
Running stride is not about lengthening our stride, it’s about quickening our turn over so our feet land right under us. In fact, this is the biggest and most important change we can make.
We aren’t talking about not heel striking
We’re talking about not landing with our foot in front of the midline of our body. There are two ways to really ensure this happens:
Improve our running cadence.
Do running form drills before most runs, this creates a neural pathway in our brain to make it happen naturally.
2. Don’t Bounce
We shouldn’t bounce. To do this, the ceiling is an inch above us and we don’t want to hit it.
Every time we raise too far off the ground we’re sending energy upward instead of forward. We want all of your momentum going forward, which is also why we often hear people talk about having a slight lean from the ankles. We should avoid too much impact.
3. Have a Slight Forward Lean
We should run with a slight forward lean. This is one of the hard things for runners to master and why we teach techniques around it in the course.
We should not lean from our waist. The movement starts at our ankles and our body remains in a straight line.
This is something that we must do drills to work on and make it a natural part of our running form.
4. Keep Your Feet Flat
We should keep our feet flat. Not running like we are up on our toes.
It can help for a while to imagine flexing our foot and landing on the whole foot. This is going to help us stop heel striking if we are landing in front of our body, we will have to pull our foot closer to land with our full foot and get the most power out of our stride.
We should aim to land with control by using a smooth and even foot strike.
5. Pay Attention to Cadence
Aim for a cadence of 170-180 footfalls per minute.
While 180 is often ideal, it’s not for every runner. We should understand how it’s going to help us run faster and prevent injuries. Faster running is about the faster turn over, not striding out.
6. Notice How You Feel
We should pay attention to how we feel while running, if there is something wrong with our form, we will likely feel it.
Pain during or after running is a sign that we have a mobility or strength issue somewhere in our body.
7. Improve Mobility in Hips and Ankles
About mobility, it’s important to pay attention to flexibility and mobility in our hips as well as our ankles. This will reduce the chances of injuries in our lower back and knees.
If we lack enough mobility to go through the full range of motion in our stride then we lose power and other muscles have to produce the energy.
Hip mobility movements
Ankle strength and hip mobility exercises
Foot strength and mobility exercises
8. Strengthen Your Glutes
This is so important, often issues come from weak glutes or really tight quads and hips, which will decrease our range of motion and power.
For proper form, it’s necessary to strengthen and activate our glutes. This should be something to do prior to every single run in our warm up and something we focus on during our strength workouts each week.
Focus On A Good Running Form, Feel Better And Stronger, Avoid Injuries, And Enjoy Great Strong Runs!