There’s a lot more to running than simply lacing up your shoes, hitting the road and doing what feels natural. Improving your running form can help you run faster, more efficiently, and with less stress on your body and reduced injury risk.
From foot strikes and stride turnover to posture and body tension, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to running form.
Follow these tips to work on perfecting your running form:
Perfect your stride
One of the most common mistakes new runners make is reaching out with their foot to take a longer stride. Overstriding creates an aggressive, heel-smashing foot strike, which not only wastes more energy, but also leads to injury issues such as runner’s knee and shin splints.
Your strides shouldn’t be too short either. This is just as inefficient as overstriding. When it comes to proper running form, you should find a stride length that is comfortable, almost effortless.
Ideally your knee should be above your foot and your shin vertical as your foot makes contact with the ground. This running form will put your foot down underneath your hips, preventing your leg from stretching in front of your body.
One of the biggest concerns among new runners is how their foot strikes the ground. Heel strikers tend to land with their heel first and roll to the ball of the foot, while for toe runners, landing on their toes comes naturally.
Even though, the reality is that most average runners are either heel strikers or toe runners, these two foot strikes can truly damage your performance. If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight or fatigued quickly and you may develop shin pain. Landing on your heels wastes energy and may cause injury.
A mid-foot strike, in contrast to a heel or a forefoot strike, provides greater shock absorption, decreases strain on the calves and Achilles tendon, and may help prevent shin splints. Heading to a track and leaving your shoes behind is a great way to practice avoiding a huge heel or toe strike.
Check your posture
Just as you should maintain good posture when standing or sitting, maintaining a straight and erect posture while running is essential. Just by keeping a good posture, you will help release tension and reduce strain in the neck and shoulders and prevent muscle fatigue.
Next time you get out for a run, follow these proper posture principles that will help you to reinforce a tall, straight back with no slouching:
- Hold your head high, centered between your shoulders, and your back straight.
- Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you.
- Keep your shoulders under your ears and maintain a neutral pelvis.
- Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. To help you remember, imagine a vertical line splitting your body in half – your hands should not cross it.
- When you’re feeling sluggish, poke your chest out for an extra boost of confidence.
Whether is it caused by lack of experience or by trying too hard, the truth is many runners have way too much tension in their bodies. But putting this extra pressure on yourself isn’t doing you any favors.
In fact, anywhere you’re holding extra tension is using up energy that should be spent elsewhere. It’s important to know your tension spots and check to make sure you’re not clenching when you should be relaxed:
- Be aware of jaw tension and squinting. Unclench your jaw by opening your mouth and taking a deep breath; to reduce squinting, use a hat with a brim that puts your eyes in shade, or by wearing sunglasses.
- Keep your arms relaxed and hands as loosed as possible. You can hold your hands as if you are holding drumsticks or as if you have a fragile egg in each hand. Don’t clench your fists because it can lead to tightness in the arms, shoulders, and neck.
- Keep your wrists loose. This will help you maintain a good hand and shoulder position.