Running Form – 13 Tips

Posted on the Ultralist:

Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2008 19:34:04 -0500
From: Tim Smith
Subject: Running Form (was Stride length vs turnover rate)

There are some generalities about running form, regardless of length or type of race, surface, or pace.

1. Keep head up. Looking down will make you “stub” your toes which is a braking action. It’s hard to not look straight down on treacherous trails but do your best.

2. Keep arms bent about 90 degrees at the elbow. This is more efficient. Do not “brush your hips” with your wrists as you may have been taught at sometime.

3. Arms should swing backwards as much as forwards. Many people do not pumptheir arms enough. Use ’em.

4. Your arms set your pace. To go faster, begin by pumping your arms faster.

5. You should twist your torso some when you run. The forward-twist (same as in swimming) pre-loads the muscle and helps “pull” your back leg through. (Kinda hard to explain, but this is one reason to do lots of core work!)

6. Keep hands and shoulders relaxed. “Pumping” your arms doesn’t mean to tighten them up. Bending the arms can make you scrunch your shoulders so focus on not doing that, and shake out your arms from time to time.

7. Land on your mid-foot, just in front of the arch. Not on your heels (you are braking if you do that). And not on your toes (also braking, a different way). Landing on mid-foot is the “springiest” way to land and your body naturally springs into the next step. If you find your quads are overly-sore after running, you may be a heel-striker (most runners are heel-strikers
which is not good).

8. Never lock out a knee. Keep an S-shape to your leg when landing. A straight leg, at any point, invites injury. (In fact, in general you shouldn’t lock out any joints when exercising.)

9. You feet should land below or even slightly behind your hips, and should “glance” the ground in the sense that as you hit, you push backwards, NOT up. Pushing up is wasted energy. Technically, even when running downhill you want your feet landing behind you (not easy to do). Going uphill is the only time you push up. Your head should bob up and down as little as possible when you run (practice in a mirror).

10. Use your glutes/hamstrings to pull your leg back after it “glances” the ground. These are strong muscles so use ’em.

11. Pull your leg forward almost like you are “kneeing” someone in the side. Don’t exaggerate this, but you will find that this pulls your leg through in a bent fashion (like those elbows). It’s not good to “shuffle.” That’s inefficient. Physics demands that a bent-leg follow through is more efficient. This should not stress your quads, even though it sounds like it might. It’s a natural (after practice) motion.

12. Yes, you should run at about 90 strides per minute (each foot is 90 per minute). To go faster, or slower, you do not change this much. You stride length will naturally increase, or decrease, as you pick up your pace.

13. Lean slightly forward when you run. Bend at the ankles, NOT the hips. The faster you are going, the greater the lean. Generally you lean about 4-7%.

Knowing these “rules” is one thing, but it’s not easy to do all this and takes a lot of practice and probably few people can actually do it perfect (like swimming). I’m only learning these techniques now and it’s very hard to do them all correctly, especially at one time!


Tim C. Smith
Research Chemist

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