The Ins and Outs of Running Form

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The Ins and Outs of Running Form

Running form is a hot topic. A quick search brings up a dizzying number of articles claiming that a certain way is the only way. It can be challenging to differentiate practical, useful information from all the hype. 

There are two factors that have the greatest impact on form: genetics and training history. Genetics determine your body shape, height, leg length and all the other physical attributes that play a role in determining proper running form. But your running background and training are also important factors.

While a dramatic overhaul to your running form can be valuable for a few runners, most will benefit from implementing subtle cues. The bottom line is that running form is incredibly variable, and there is no single, correct way to run. The key is to find what’s most efficient for you as an individual that will help minimize injuries.

IS CHANGING YOUR FORM NECESSARY?

Before changing your form, it’s best to ask yourself: Should I change my form? If you’re running well, making progress and not experiencing any major injuries, then you’ve probably dialed in on what works for you. Don’t change your form for the sake of change.

However, if you suffer from chronic injuries, have already tried adding strength and dynamic flexibility work and are suffering from ongoing issues, then making subtle tweaks could be a good idea. Making too many changes too quickly will almost certainly lead to injury, which is what you’re trying to avoid. Focus on one minor change at a time, and remember that any modifications to your form may take months (or longer) to become a consistent habit.

USE SUBTLE CUES INSTEAD OF FORCED CHANGES

Rather than making major changes to your form, focus on cues that will help you run as efficiently as possible without requiring significant modifications. Cues will encourage you to make more natural modifications to your stride without being forced into an inefficient new pattern.

Pick one of these cues to spend time on before moving on the next so you don’t overdo it.

1. RELAX

Tension anywhere in your body makes you less efficient.

2. CONSIDER YOUR POSTURE

Run tall with a slight forward lean that comes from your ankles, not your waist.

3. LAND QUIETLY

Stay light and try to let your feet brush the ground lightly rather than slapping the pavement.

4. KEEP YOUR FEET UNDER YOU

Instead, focus on your foot landing under your body (not in front). Heel striking is not always a problem, but it is far more likely to cause trouble when your foot is landing way out in front of you.

5. INCREASE YOUR CADENCE

Most of us have to shorten our stride to get to a higher cadence — 180 steps per minutes is often cited as an ideal number. Try counting your steps over the course of a minute to determine your baseline and then work from there. While cadence varies slightly, work on increasing it gradually (5–10%) using some of the cues above if yours is drastically lower.

6. BUILD STRENGTH

Runner-specific strength routines, especially those that target hips and glutes, will help you maintain better form even when you’re fatigued.

7. DRILLS

Looking for more you can do to improve your form and efficiency?  Try adding running drills to your routine.

Chances are that by focusing on these subtle cues, you can make incremental, moderate changes that will deliver long-term results. After all, maintaining proper form is the means to healthier, more efficient running.  


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