Proper Running Form

There are many ways to run, but there are strong similarities between all those that do it better than most.  Over the years, i have gleened many of the finer points of our beloved form of locomotion, so below, please find the things you want to think about and focus on, at least according to me, when it comes to running form.

1.        footstrike

a.        position

b.       cadence

2.       posture

a.   head

b.      shoulders

c.        torso

d.       hips

3.       knee lift/kick back

4.       arm swing

5.       hand position

 

The good thing about this is that it is highly likely that if you fix one part, it will positively affect the others.  Given the choice, I suggest foot strike and cadence as your main things to work on.

 

Foot Strike

Position

  • It is important to remember your feet and legs are only propelling you forward if they are, however slightly, behind you. 
  • Ideally, you should try to use a mid-foot strike where the ball of the foot lands under your hips, not in front of them.
  • If you touch down in front of your hips (aka overstriding) three things happen:
    • you actually slow yourself down by hitting heel first,
    • you increase the level of impact with every foot strike; and,
    • you delay the next push off the length of time it takes for your body to get in front of the contact point so you can actually push off.
  • If you get the forward lean right and the feet under the hips right, you will naturally land mid-foot.

Cadence or stride rate

  • The ideal cadence for running is between 88 and 92 footstrikes per foot per minute.  This goes for almost every size and speed of person. 
  • Simply count foot strikes for 30 seconds and multiply by 2. If you get 90, you're golden.  If not but you are close, that's fine.  if you are much higher or lower, you should adjust accordingly.
  • One of the things gently touched on above is overstriding and it's effect on impact-it increases it.  Keeping your cadence around 90 will result in a softer foot strike because the body weight is supported more often, therefore distributed between more footstrikes for shorter periods of time.  This will very likely reduce impact injures and push you forward more often.
  • Hopefully, it is obvious there is a point of diminshing returns in regards to the most efficient stride rate and taking more steps is not necessarily better. Many more than 90 foot strikes per minute gets to be too many and uses up more energy than it it worth..
  • A good stride race will also limit upward motion, reducing time in the air, again, reducing impact.
  • Stride rate does increase on acceleration, but once up to speed, goes back to 'normal'.

 

 

Posture

Running, like walking, is a series of falls where you catch yourself with the next step.  In order to continually fall forward, you have to continually lean forward, thereby using the pull of gravity to encourage that forward motion.  If you stand up too straight, you do not encourage that forward motion.

With that in mind, here is what I want you to focus on, in order of priority.

Head position

  • look where you are going
  • keep your chin up so your airway is open.  If you look at your feet, or down at the ground, your airway is a bit more closed than it needs to be and impedes breathing
  • if you do this, your posture will naturally improve

Shoulders

  • should be back with chest out a bit..  This will put your centre of gravity in a position that is slightly ahead of your body, creating the forward fall as gravity pulls it downward  
  • This also opens up the lungs and makes it easier to breath deeply.
  • If your head is up and you are looking where you are going, this is much easier.

Torso

  • Needs to be reasonably taut and strong as it support the forward lean and keeps things in line between hips and shoulders,   As we fatigue, we tend to slouch.  A strong torso easily resists the fatigue.
  • If your head is up and your chest is out, you cannot slouch.

Hips

  • Should be slightly forward, adding a bit more to the forward lean.
  • To a point, the faster you run, the more you lean.

Knee lift/kick back

  • It was proven long, long ago that with the appropriate length lever, you can move almost anything.
  • It is worth noting that the longer the lever, the greater the distance one end needs to travel in order to move whatever is at the other end.  The further the travel, the longer it takes..  Conversely, the shorter the distance the end has to travel, the quicker it can move.
  • So, it stands to reason that by raising your foot and bending your knee and thereby shortening your leg (lever) on the kickback, the easier and quicker you can get your knee forward and back into position to get your foot back on the ground so it can propel you forward.
  • This action takes a little more effort on the part of the hip flexors, hamstrings and calves, but in terms of efficiency, is very worthwhile working on.
  • The faster you go, the more beneficial it is to do this, but it helps at all speeds. 
  • Also, the faster you go, the more pronounced it is.

Arm Swing

Simply put, everyone is different when it comes to arm swing, but the general rules are:

  • Do not cross over the center line
  • Use a relaxed and natural swing
  • Elbow should be bent to 60-70 degrees when the hand is in front of the body, and should snap open to 70-80 degrees when initiating the downswing and behind the hips.
  • Hand travel should be from around sternum height to 10cm behind the hips. 
  • If your hands go higher than the sternum, there tends to be a bit more upward motion to the body instead of forward motion.

Hand Position

  • Your shoulders, arms and hands should be relaxed, but not floppy
  • It may help to visualize yourself carrying a pen in each hand with the your thumb and first knuckle of your index finger gently pinching the end of the pen
  • You also want to make sure you don't poke yourself with the other end of the pen, so it should point slightly outward.

Ideally, you should be thinking about this all the time, especially when you get tired or are going easy, which are both times when we get lazy.  When you are rested or running quick, a lot of this comes naturally.

Great Running Posture

Great running posture showing:

  • Head position
  • Forward lean
  • Forward hips
  • Good knee and foot follow-through
  • Relaxed arms

 good posture

Great running posture with special attention to the high kick back and short lever for faster follow-through.

good kick

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