Flashback Episode: How to Perfect Your Running Form

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Running form encompasses the position and state of relaxation of your body as you run.

Having good form can save energy and decrease the chance of getting a common running injury!

If you are a new runner it is important to learn good running posture so that you don’t pick up any bad habits. If you’ve been running for a while be sure to evaluate your running form to see if there are areas that need improvement.

Let’s take a look at each body part directly involved in running.

Head to Toe Running Form Evaluation:

  1. Head: Good running posture starts with your head.
    Let your gaze guide you as you look ahead and scan the horizon. Imagine that you’re a marionette puppet and a string is coming out of the top of your head pulling it up. Run with your jaw relaxed and develop a pattern of breathing step by step. Breathe in-in as your feet hit the ground and then out-out as they hit the ground again.
  2. Shoulders: Keep your shoulders low, loose, and level.
    They shouldn’t dip with each stride or feel tense or tight. If you feel tension starting to develop or your shoulders are creeping toward your ears, let your arms hang loosely at your sides and shake out the tension.
  3. Arms: Your arms provide balance and coordination with your legs.
    Your hands control the tension in your upper body. Don’t clench your hands in fists. Let your fingers lightly touch your palms (imagine carrying a potato chip in each hand).

    Elbows should be bent at 90 degrees and swing forward and back. Don’t drive your arms forward as you run, drive them backward. Keep your arms close to the torso but don’t allow them to cross the midline of your body as they swing back and forth. Again, if you feel tension in your arms or shoulders, let your arms drop to your sides and shake them out.

  4. Torso: Your torso is controlled by your head and shoulder position.
    Keep the back straight and upright to increase lung capacity and maintain a slight forward lean (this should start from your ankles). Your upper body should also be in balance with your legs and hips.
  5. Hips: Your hips are the center of gravity.
    Point your hips straight ahead and make sure that your pelvis is level. If your torso is correctly aligned then your hips will follow suit.
  6. Legs: Distance running requires a slight knee lift, short stride, and quick leg turnover.
    This will create fluidity and avoid wasting energy. Your feet should land directly under your hips with the knee slightly flexed as the foot hits the ground. If you have proper knee lift it will feel like you are driving the knee forward and not upward.

    Over-striding decreases speed and efficiency and puts stress of your knees, hips, and back. Shortening your stride by 10% may reduce the impact on your legs and decrease your risk of shin stress fractures.

  7. Ankles/Feet: Your foot should land midfoot and hit the ground lightly.
    The ankle will be flexed as the foot rolls forward to push off. You should feel your calf muscles propelling you forward without bobbing up and down.

    Over-pronation is when the foot rolls too much during the landing and pushoff phase and puts too much stress on the foot. It can be caused by weak muscles in the lower body as well as stride problems. Many experts recommend barefoot or minimalistic running to strengthen and stabilize the ankle and foot muscles. Other runners find success using motion control shoes.

Quick Tip:

The keys to Chi Running are postural alignment and relaxation. Chi Running encourages landing with a midfoot strike, using a forward lean, and engaging core strength for forward motion, rather than leg strength. This approach makes your running easier and healthier for the whole body. To find a class near you visit: http://www.chirunning.com/what-is-chirunning/

The POSE Method is also concerned with having the correct posture and technique. To find an instructor near you visit: http://www.posetech.com/services/coach-list.html

9 Responses to Flashback Episode: How to Perfect Your Running Form

  1. Karen Bowers January 18, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Thank you! A great form review!

    • Angie January 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      You’re welcome Karen. Happy running!

  2. Robinson Mertilus January 19, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    Thanks for the post of running form. I altered my form several months ago and noticed marked improvements in my stamina, comfort while running, and minimization of injuries. I continue to take note of what’s working and what makes my run more efficient. I will take what you mentioned in this article and pay more attention to making sure my shoulder is relaxed throughout the run and making sure I am breathing properly.

    Wish my luck on my first try at a marathon in March 2012!

    • Angie January 21, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

      I’m glad that you’ve noticed what a difference the right running form makes. Doing a head to toe check every so often can help eliminate tension before it starts. All the best with your upcoming marathon!

  3. Anna February 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    This is great information, thank you!

    Ironically I have been in physical therapy for plantar’s fasciitis (rare thing) and this guy is teaching me how to run. No outside running, which is just so frustrating; lifting the leg to 90 degree or higher kick, on the treadmill, with a metronome app in my ear. Forefront running, who knew?!

    I want to get back on the road, many races signed up for and missed out on. If this will allow me to continue to run with no injury, patience will prevail this time.

    Thanks again, love your podcast

    • Angie February 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

      Hey Anna. I’m sorry that you’re dealing with plantar fasciitis right now. It’s no fun. Learning to avoid heel striking and running on softer surfaces will definitely help get you on the right track. Keep up the good work and stay positive.

  4. Jennifer Elling February 23, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    All very good information for me. I’ve been working on my form since getting back into running after a 29 year absence. I had an injury that wouldn’t go away – (sciatica nerve pain) Finally after going to an acupuncturist I am pain free and able to run again. Glory days! I’ve been running now for 3 years and have completed 2 half marathons. I’m almost 60 and so thrilled to be able to run again.

    My problem that I have now is during my long runs – my toes go to sleep. I’m a mid foot-striker, I have bone spurs in my left big toe joint (phalanx?) , I have super high arches, I wear New Balance with orthotics, and I use the Galloway method when needed. What could I be doing wrong?

    I really enjoy reading your articles and am so thrilled to be a part of the running society again – it is my meditation – Oh……and I smile when I run too. 😀

    Grateful for good health,

    • Angie February 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

      Hi Jennifer. Thanks for sharing some of your running story. It’s great to hear that you’re so thankful for running and good health.

      Some runners experience toe numbness because there isn’t enough room in the toe box of their shoes. You also might want to try wearing compression socks to improve circulation. Good luck!

  5. Ernesto Meach February 6, 2013 at 4:32 am #

    Running is a fun sport – seriously. Each day, people all over the world partake in the sport. Some run on the track. Others run in their neighborhood. People run in trails and even on the treadmill. No matter where you run or how often you do it, chances are you are either at risk for injury or you have at some point dealt with an injury.Injuries can be frustrating. For most people, this means that some time needs to be spent away from the sport. For someone who loves it, this is not an easy task. But it is important to note that the easiest and quickest way to heal a running injury is to stop running.”

    Take a look at our very own blog too

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