The 4 Universal Laws of Proper Running Form

Good running form can help you run in the most efficient, the fastest manner possible, with the least risk of injury.

As a result, if you want to take your running to the next level, you MUST work on improving your training technique. If that’s what you are after, then you are in the right place.

So are you excited? Then here we go…

What is Running Form?

Also known as running mechanics, running technique, or style, running form simply refers to how you run.

The main mechanics include running posture, foot strike, arm position, cadence, etc. Each of these mechanics affects your running comfort, efficiency, and results.  See these as the individual functions of your body while running.

So, is there really a right way to run?

I hate to break it to you, but there are no wrong or right answers to that question—unlike what some of the current running form trends, such as Chi Running, Pose Method, and Minimalist running, preach.

The fact is, opinions on proper mechanics vary from one expert to the next. And to his day, training form is one of the most debated topics in the running world.

Many Questions. Few Answers…

Proper running mechanics brings up more than questions than answers. Here are a few:

  • Should you land on the heel, the mid-foot, or forefoot?
  • How to run with a slight forward lean?
  • Is a long strider better than a short stride?
  • Is heel strike the enemy?
  • Should you breathe from the nose? The mouth? Or both?
  • Should beginner runners concern themselves with proper form?
  • Are proper form rules universal?
  • What does current scientific research say about proper running form?

The list is long.

But here is a simple solution.

I believe in the existence of some basic elements of good basic form.

In today’s short post, I’ll share with you some of these universal laws for proper running technique. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll have a rough a rough guideline on how to start building and fine-tuning your own running technique.

The 4 Universal Laws of Proper Running Form

Without further ado, here are the universal principles for good form you need.

1. Run Tall

When it comes to proper running form, “run tall” should be your motto. We, humans, are upright animals, and we run best that way.

Running tall can help build proper posture, which is key for efficient and injury-free training. In addition, it can also increase your confidence and make you feel unstoppable.

Here is how to run tall:

Stay upright, while keeping the back flat, spine straight, eyes gazing forward, and shoulders back. Imagine there is someone pulling you up from your hair.

Do not, under any circumstance, bend at the waist nor look down at your feet, especially when fatigue starts to set in. For a visual, imagine that your column is stacked under your head.

2. Run Relaxed

Staying relaxed while running might seem incongruous to most runners, but it can be done.

As a matter of fact, running is easy when it’s relaxed. Conversely, tension saps energy, resulting in discomfort and fatigue.

Think of running with tension in your body like driving a car with the brakes on. It forces you to work harder than you should, but only go slower.

Here is how to keep your body relaxed when running:

Be wary of common troubled spots. These include the shoulders, the jaw, the neck, and the hands.

Keep your shoulders back and loose. If you feel tightness in this area, then just drop your arms, open your hands, then shake them out for a moment.

Unclench your jaw. Instead, let it slacken and your eyes to droop and soften. Your facial muscles are not what you think about while running but they do control the degree of tension in your entire body.

Unclasp your fists. Imagine that you’re holding a delicate egg in each hand that you don’t want to crush. Although these muscle groups are not directly involved in the running motion, tension in these spots can set the stage for tension and improper form.

Breathe deep. Instead of solely relying on your chest, engage your diaphragm—your belly—to draw in deeper and more powerful inhales and exhales.

3. Running Cadence

Also known as leg turnover, cadence is the technical term that refers to how often your feet hit the ground while running. In essence, it’s the total number of steps you take while running per minute.

Cadence is a crucial part of proper running mechanics.  Proper cadence helps reduce stress on feet, knees, and ankles, improving running efficiency—all of which can reduce injury risk and improve running performance.

So what is the ideal cadence?

According to experts, a cadence of 170 to 180 steps per minute is the optimal range for most people.

Measuring Cadence

You can measure your running cadence by counting the number of times your feet strike the ground in one minute of running.

To start off, assess your current running cadence. If the number is 180 or higher, you are in the right place.

If it’s not the case, then work gradually on increasing it by taking smaller, quicker steps.

Using a metronome can also come in handy. So, for instance, if you are aiming for 170 steps per minute, set your metronome at 85 beats per minute and swing your arms to the beat.

4. Run Your Own Way

With all that being said, running form is very personal.

As previously mentioned, what is crucial is to cultivate proper form habits. And over time, you’ll tone your technique and be able to find what works the best for your unique body type and mechanics.

What I recommend that you do is to develop your own running style while putting into consideration the above laws for proper movement.

That’s why, in the end, you need to run as run as naturally as possible.

In other words, let the technique conform to your physiology. Your running form must fit your individual characteristics. Not the other way around.

To get instant feedback on your running style, join a running group of more experienced runners.

These running clubs typically include runners from a variety of fitness backgrounds and levels, some of whom might be able to help you improve both your technique and training approach.

Just be open for some honest criticism. You might not like what you hear. But that’s a part of the learning process.

Every runner is unique and has a slightly different style of running. That’s fine. Just embrace the learning process, keep track on your performance and training enjoyment, and you’ll be on the right path.

And the more you run, the better you’ll get at judging good technique.

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David Dack

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2 Comments

    • Ileana
    • June 16, 2017

    great tips, thanks for sharing. i’m also training for a half marathon with SportMe marathon app, which calculates distance, time, pace and calories.

    • Mandar
    • July 2, 2017

    Nice tips about cadence, fists, posture