Running Technique Guide – How To Improve Running Form for Beginners

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David Dack

Looking to improve your running technique and improve running technique? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Now, here’s the deal: Running is as natural to us as breathing. I mean, think about it. According to the evolutionary gurus and running connoisseurs like Chris MacDougal, our very own bodies were designed to do one thing exceptionally well—run, and run for long distances. It’s how our ancestors survived back in the good old days. Running was a matter of life and death.

Now, here’s the not-so-pleasant truth: Having proper running technique doesn’t always come naturally to most of us. Yep, you heard it right. One of the most common mistakes runners make is strutting their stuff with less-than-stellar form. And let me tell you, it’s not a topic that gets talked about enough. I get it, everyone has their own opinion, but that’s no reason to dismiss the importance of proper running form altogether.

That’s where I come in. I’ve made it my mission to unravel the secrets of good running form and compile them into this comprehensive article. I’ll dive into topics like what exactly running form is, why it’s crucial, how to improve your running posture, and even explore the intriguing concept of Lean Gravity Running.

Oh, and we’ll also tackle the burning question of what to do with those hands of yours while you’re out there pounding the pavement.

I know, it’s a lot to cover, but let’s be real here—running technique deserves all the attention it can get. So buckle up those laces, my friend, because we’re about to embark on an epic journey of mastering your running form.

Excited? Let’s get started.

What is Running Form?

Picture running form as the conductor of an orchestra, harmonizing all the different elements to create a symphony of effortless motion. It’s like the secret sauce that can take your running from good to absolutely jaw-dropping.

When we talk about running form, we’re diving into the fascinating world of running mechanics, technique, and style. It’s all about how you move and groove when you hit the pavement. Think of it as your running signature, uniquely tailored to your body and capabilities.

Now, let’s break it down. Your running form encompasses a medley of crucial factors. We’re talking about your running posture, the way your feet strike the ground, the position of those powerful arms of yours, and even the rhythm of your cadence.

But why should you care about all this? Well, my friend, here’s the tea. Proper running form is the key that unlocks a world of benefits. It’s the secret sauce that enhances your running experience and unlocks your true potential.

When you dial in your running form, you’re setting the stage for comfort, efficiency, and mind-blowing results. Trust me, you want to tap into that magic. Picture yourself gliding through your runs with ease, feeling light as a feather, and leaving your competition in the dust. That’s the power of nailing your running form.

The Importance of Good Running Technique

Proper running form, my friend, is the secret sauce that separates the running champs from the strugglers. It’s like having the perfect rhythm in a dance, where each step flows effortlessly and gracefully. When you unlock the power of good running technique, you unleash a whole new level of running prowess.

Let’s get real here. When you master your running form, you open the doors to a world of benefits. Think about it like this: it’s the difference between cruising down the highway in a sleek sports car or chugging along in an old clunker. You want to be the sports car, effortlessly gliding towards your running goals.

But here’s the catch. If your running form goes off the rails, it’s like throwing a wrench into the gears. Suddenly, you’re at risk of injury and your performance takes a nosedive. We don’t want that, do we? No way! We want you to conquer those miles with confidence and reach new heights.

Note: It Takes Time To Build Good Running Form

Learning any new skill—whether it’s a new language, how to use new software, or in your case, how to develop good running form—requires time and experimentation.

It doesn’t happen overnight.

But it’ll definitely help you ward off injuries and run more efficiently.

How To Improve Running Form for Beginners

Here are the exact guidelines you need to improve your running technique.

Your Running Posture

Let’s talk about posture. Now, I must admit, the word itself doesn’t quite excite me. It brings to mind images of stiff, book-balancing individuals trying to maintain a perfect stance. Not exactly the most thrilling mental picture, right? But here’s the thing: despite its lackluster reputation, good posture holds incredible power.

Think of it as the invisible force that aligns your body like a well-oiled machine. It’s like the conductor leading a symphony, ensuring that every instrument plays in perfect harmony. When you have proper posture, everything falls into place—your muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments all work together seamlessly.

But here’s the kicker: good posture isn’t just important for sitting up straight at a desk or walking gracefully. When you lace up your running shoes and hit the track, proper posture becomes your secret weapon.

Imagine this: your body is a magnificent structure, and good posture is the solid foundation upon which it stands. It’s like the rock-solid base of a towering skyscraper, keeping everything stable and balanced. With each step you take, proper posture ensures that your body moves efficiently and effortlessly, reducing the strain on your muscles.

Let’s not forget the injury prevention aspect. Good posture acts as your body’s personal bodyguard, shielding you from unnecessary aches, pains, and injuries. It’s like having an invisible shield that deflects potential harm, allowing you to run with confidence and resilience.

Bad Posture on The Run

Let’s talk about the nemesis of a good run: bad posture. Now, I understand that some of you may have been lucky enough to avoid this plight, but let me tell you, it can turn your long run into a real nightmare.

Picture this: you’re out there, pounding the pavement, chasing your running goals. But wait! What’s that nagging pain in your neck, shoulders, or back? Ouch! It’s like an unwanted hitchhiker that jumped on board without your permission. And let me tell you, bad posture is often the culprit.

You see, when your posture is off, it’s like your body’s internal GPS got rerouted. Instead of proper alignment, your muscles and joints bear the brunt of the stress. They’re working overtime, becoming tense, and screaming for mercy. Not exactly the kind of harmony you want while you’re out there conquering the miles.

But here’s the thing: bad posture doesn’t stop at ruining your running experience. Oh no, it has a whole repertoire of mischief up its sleeve. Wasted energy? Check. Interfering with your running gait? Double check. Contributing to overuse injuries? Triple check. It’s like a domino effect of discomfort and setbacks.

Trust me, I speak from personal experience. I used to battle a host of problems that I can only attribute to my poor posture. After even a short run, my lower and middle back would ache and feel fatigued. Sitting for just an hour would leave me with a burning pain between my shoulder blades and in my lower back. And let’s not forget the cherry on top—my poor posture made me look shorter and heavier than I actually am. Not the confidence boost I was hoping for.

But fear not! There is light at the end of the tunnel. Once I made a conscious effort to improve my posture, a miraculous transformation occurred. Those issues that plagued me for so long? They simply vanished into thin air.

Sure, I still get the occasional twinge of back pain, but it’s nowhere near as intense or as frequent as before. And here’s the kicker: even with longer work hours and more miles on my running shoes, I’m standing tall, feeling stronger, and looking like the best version of myself.

Good Posture

First things first, it’s all about tackling the root causes of bad posture. Strengthening and mobilizing the right muscles became my secret weapon in this battle. Let me tell you, it made a world of difference.

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how to achieve that perfect posture. Picture this: a straight spine, relaxed shoulders, and a slight forward lean. That’s the winning formula right there. But we can’t forget about our torso—it should be straight as an arrow, avoiding any excessive chest or booty protrusions. Keep it all in line, my friend.

And here’s where the core takes center stage. Engage those core muscles like a superhero tightening their cape. A strong and tight core not only gives you the stability of a mighty oak but also sets the stage for impeccable posture and efficient running. It’s the rock-solid foundation you need to conquer those miles with confidence.

To truly grasp the essence of proper posture, let’s do a little experiment. Find a wall and stand tall against it. Now, press that derrière firmly against the wall while keeping your chest lifted, core engaged, and back nice and flat. Voila! That’s the posture you should strive for while you hit the running trails.

And if you’re a visual person like me, here’s a little trick for you. Imagine there’s a plum line suspended above your head, gracefully descending through your body, ensuring every inch of you aligns perfectly. Picture that vertical line, my friend, and let it guide you to running glory.

But here’s the cherry on top—don’t forget to check in on your running posture every 10 to 15 minutes. Just like a navigator constantly reassesses their course, you need to ensure everything is on track. Are you standing tall? Are your shoulders relaxed? Is that core engaged? Take a moment, my friend, and make those adjustments if needed. Your body will thank you for it.

woman running

Lean Gravity Assisted Running

The art of gravity-assisted running is like harnessing the power of the universe itself to propel us forward. But here’s the thing, my friend, you’ve got to do it right. Let me share the secret to mastering this technique and unlocking your true running potential.

Imagine this: a slight forward tilt, a mere two to three degrees. It may sound minuscule, but trust me, it’s the sweet spot where magic happens. When you lean forward from your ankles, not your waist, you activate the mighty force of gravity, becoming its dance partner on the running stage.

But here’s a word of caution—balance is key. Avoid leaning too far forward, like a daring acrobat defying gravity’s limits, or too far back, like a hesitant turtle retreating into its shell. Find that sweet spot, my friend, where you’re in perfect harmony with the gravitational forces at play.

Now, let’s talk about the hips. They bear the weight of our running endeavors, and we must treat them with care. Say no to bending backward or forward from the waist. That’s like putting excessive pressure on the hips, asking them to bear a burden they’re not meant to carry. Let’s spare our hips the trouble, shall we?

To truly understand the beauty of proper forward lean, let’s take a moment to appreciate the Nordic ski jumpers. Picture those graceful athletes soaring through the air, defying gravity’s grasp. Their bodies lean forward in perfect synchrony, riding the waves of momentum. They are the epitome of the ideal forward lean we seek in our running form.

Your Head While Running

Picture this: your head held high, like a regal monarch surveying their kingdom. It should be centered, maintaining its rightful place between the shoulders. This is the foundation of a harmonious head-body relationship.

Now, let’s talk about your gaze. Look ahead, my friend, approximately 10 to 15 feet into the distance. Fix your eyes on the path that lies before you, like a keen-eyed adventurer, always aware of what lies ahead. Avoid the temptation to glance downward at your feet. Such an act leads to the treacherous land of slouching—a place no runner wants to be.

The chin is the bridge between head and body. It holds great power over our running form. Keep it level, neither tilting it up nor down. Yes, fatigue may try to tempt you into a downward gaze, but resist its siren call. Your chin should remain steadfast, like a vigilant guardian, protecting the alignment of your head and spine.

Why all this fuss, you ask? Well, my friend, it’s about energy. When your head assumes its rightful position, aligned with the spine, energy flows freely throughout your body.

Your Shoulders While Running

As you embark on your running journey, remember this golden rule: keep your shoulders relaxed and nestled comfortably under your ears. Think of them as a pair of loyal sentinels, maintaining a watchful stance.

Why is this so important, you ask? Well, my friend, hunching those mighty shoulders creates unnecessary tension—a prison of discomfort that inhibits your breathing and restricts your movement. We don’t want that, do we?

When your shoulders are relaxed, it’s as if a weight has been lifted off your chest, allowing your lungs to expand and contract freely. Your breathing becomes a rhythmic melody, a symphony of oxygen flowing in and out with ease. This not only enhances your running efficiency but also fills you with a sense of liberation, as if you’re soaring through the skies like a majestic bird.

But there’s more to it than just breathing. When your shoulders are relaxed, your arms can swing like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, effortlessly propelling you forward. It’s a beautiful dance of synchronization, where your shoulders and arms work in harmony, enhancing your stride and propelling you towards your goals.

Your Arms While Running

While running may seem like a lower-body affair, your arms play a crucial role in your performance. They’re not just idle bystanders; they are active participants in the symphony of motion that propels you forward.

Imagine your arms as swift, graceful wings, guiding you through the air with effortless precision. As you swing your arms in rhythm with your legs, you tap into a hidden well of power. This synchrony enhances your balance, boosts your speed, and elevates your overall coordination and rhythm.

To optimize your arm position while running, remember these key tips. Keep your arms comfortably at your sides, like two trusty companions accompanying you on your running escapade. Let your elbows form a gentle angle of around 90 degrees, slightly pointed away from your torso. This position allows for fluid movement, reducing unnecessary tension and freeing your energy to conquer new horizons.

As you swing your arms forward and back, like the pendulum of a grand clock, embrace the sensation of freedom. Resist the temptation to cross your arms over your body, for it disrupts the symphony and limits your potential. By allowing your arms to move in harmony with your legs, you create a rhythm that is music to the soul of a runner.

Your Hands While Running

Ah, the unsung heroes of the running world: our trusty hands. They may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of running, but let me tell you, my friend, they hold a remarkable power. Like conductors of an orchestra, they regulate the tension in your upper body, ensuring a harmonious and efficient running experience.

Now, imagine your hands as delicate vessels, cradling a precious butterfly or holding an egg that you’re determined not to crush nor break. Keep your hands in an unclenched fist, with your fingers and thumbs lightly touching. Feel the gentle embrace of your fingers, as if they are holding onto something fragile yet full of beauty.

Now, here’s a little secret: instead of swinging your arms forward, imagine that you’re channeling your inner martial artist. Visualize yourself elbowing an unseen force behind you, propelling yourself forward with power and purpose. It’s like unleashing a hidden strength, propelling you towards victory.

Why is all this hand business so important? Well, my friend, tightness in your hands can lead to tension creeping up your back and shoulders. We don’t want that. By maintaining a relaxed yet focused grip, you release unnecessary strain and allow your upper body to move with grace and ease. It’s a dance of freedom, where tension has no place to take hold.

Your Knees While Running

Your knees bear the weight, absorb the impact, and keep us moving forward with grace and resilience. Let’s give these joint warriors the attention they deserve.

Picture this: as you glide through the air, your knees act as flexible springs, always ready to absorb the shock of each foot strike. They are like the suspension system of a high-performance sports car, ensuring a smooth ride even on the bumpiest terrain.

Now, here’s a golden rule to keep in mind: maintain a continuous slight bend in the knee throughout your entire gait cycle. It’s like maintaining a gentle flex, a state of readiness that allows your knees to adapt and respond to the ever-changing demands of the road beneath you.

As your leading leg propels you forward, imagine a subtle bend in your knee, relaxed and supple. This slight bend serves two purposes: first, it allows for a more efficient transfer of energy, enabling you to land with finesse just a tad in front of your center of gravity. Second, it acts as a shock absorber, cushioning the impact of each foot strike like a protective buffer.

You see, my friend, the knees are not meant to be locked in rigid extension. They crave that gentle flexion, that little bit of give, which prevents unnecessary strain and reduces the risk of injury. It’s like the difference between a rigid stick and a supple spring, ready to rebound and propel you forward.

Stay Relaxed Running

Running with tension is like trying to sprint while wearing a heavy backpack filled with rocks. It weighs you down, drains your energy, and prevents you from reaching your full potential. But when you let go of that tension, it’s like shedding that backpack, freeing yourself to run with lightness and ease.

Let’s start by identifying those tension hotspots. They can be tricky little troublemakers, often lurking in our hands, shoulders, and jaws. But fear not, for you hold the key to releasing them. Consciously bring your awareness to these areas and give yourself permission to let go. Imagine gently untangling knots, like a skilled masseuse working their magic.

Your shoulders, my friend, deserve a special mention. Keep them back and relaxed, as if they were carrying the weight of the world with ease. If you sense any tightness, let your arms drop by your sides, open your hands, and give them a little shake.

Now, let’s unlock the power of your face. Yes, your facial muscles can play a significant role in your overall body tension. So, unclench your jaw, allowing it to slacken and your eyes to soften. Think of it as a gentle sigh of relief, releasing any unnecessary strain and inviting relaxation to wash over you.

And those tightly clenched fists? They’re a recipe for tension and improper form. Instead, picture yourself cradling delicate eggs in each hand, eggs you don’t want to crush. Let your fingers loosen their grip, allowing the energy to flow freely and unencumbered.

Lastly, let’s dive into the world of breath. Deep, powerful breaths have the magical ability to both calm and energize. Instead of relying solely on your chest, engage your diaphragm, that marvelous muscle beneath your lungs. Feel your belly expand as you draw in a nourishing breath, and then let it gently contract as you release. It’s a dance of oxygen and vitality, fueling your every step.

Know your Cadence For Proper Running Mechanics

Think of cadence as the conductor of your running orchestra. It sets the pace, the tempo, and determines the harmony between your body and the ground. Each time your foot kisses the earth, it’s like a musical note, contributing to the melody of your stride.

Experts have spoken, and they tell us that an optimal cadence falls within the range of 170 to 180 steps per minute. This golden range, discovered by the esteemed running coach Jack Daniels, holds the key to unlocking your true running potential. It’s the sweet spot where efficiency and injury prevention meet, paving the way for remarkable performance.

But before you embark on your cadence journey, let’s measure where you currently stand. Take a moment to count the number of strides your foot takes in 30 seconds. Then, with a touch of mathematical prowess, multiply that number by four. Voila! You now have a snapshot of your current cadence.

If your cadence falls below the magic 180, fear not. Improvement is within your reach. Begin by increasing your cadence gradually, aiming for a five percent increment every three to four weeks. It’s like fine-tuning a musical instrument, making small adjustments to find your perfect rhythm.

Remember that your cadence may vary depending on the intensity of your run. During speedwork or racing, your cadence will naturally be faster, like a virtuoso violinist playing with passion and speed. So, strive to find your ideal cadence for both training and racing, ensuring a symphony of strides in every scenario.

Foot Strike & Good Running Technique

When it comes to foot strike, we’re faced with three contenders: the graceful forefoot strike (FFS), the balanced mid-foot strike (MFS), and the trusty rearfoot strike (RFS). Each has its loyal following, but here’s the catch—the evidence supporting a clear winner is yet to be discovered.

Now, before you throw your hands up in frustration, allow me to offer some guidance. As a beginner, I would recommend aiming for a mid-foot strike. Why, you ask? Well, it’s like finding the sweet spot between elegance and efficiency. Landing on your mid-foot helps minimize stress on your precious knees and ankles while giving you a solid foundation for a powerful push-off.

Here’s the secret sauce to mastering the mid-foot strike: as you glide through your running stride, focus on landing softly on your midfoot or the area between your heel and midfoot. Then swiftly roll forward onto your toes, engaging those glutes with each step.

But wait, hold your horses! While I’m here singing the praises of the mid-foot strike, it’s important to remember that running form is a deeply personal experience. What works for one runner may not work for another. So, take my suggestion with a pinch of salt and embrace the beauty of experimentation.

Pay attention to how your body responds. If you’re landing in a way that feels right, and you’re free from post-run aches and pains in your lower limbs, then you’re on the right track, my friend. Remember, running is as much an art as it is a science. Find the style that resonates with your unique rhythm and adapt accordingly.

If you find that your current foot strike isn’t serving you well, fear not! You have the power to make a change. Embrace the freedom of choice and explore different foot strike patterns until you find the one that brings you the most joy and efficiency.

Run Your Own Way

Here’s the secret sauce: as you embark on your running journey, focus on developing those proper technique habits. With each stride, you’ll be toning your form, refining it like a sculptor shaping a masterpiece. It’s all about finding what works best for you, like a bespoke suit tailored specifically to your body.

Remember, the key is to let your running technique harmonize with your physiology. Don’t force yourself into a mold that doesn’t fit. Instead, allow your natural movement patterns to guide your form, embracing the freedom to run as nature intended.

Now, here’s a nifty tip for instant feedback on your running journey—join a running group! Picture it as a vibrant community filled with experienced runners who have traveled the paths you’re about to tread. These groups are a melting pot of fitness backgrounds and levels, a treasure trove of wisdom waiting to be shared. Seek their guidance, soak up their knowledge, and be open to honest criticism. Sometimes the truth might sting a bit, but it’s all part of the learning process that propels you forward.

It’s worth noting that every runner has their own unique style. Just like a kaleidoscope of colors, we all bring our own flair to the running world. So, embrace your individuality and cherish the learning process. Keep a keen eye on your performance and the joy you derive from each training session. These markers will guide you along the right path, illuminating the way to running bliss.


To re-cap: when it comes to building proper running form, run tall with a slight forward lean, keep your body relaxed the entire time, improve your cadence, and find the foot strike that suits you the best (mine is the forefoot strike). And that’s it.

As a recreational runner—even if you take your running a bit more serious than the average joe—I don’t think you will need sophisticated from analysis to get the hangs of proper form.

Just keep your focus on the basics of proper running form and you will undoubtedly reap the rewards of proper form: efficient running and fewer injuries. And that will make your daily runs a lot more fun for sure.

And please be gradual about changing your form. In my experience, the fastest way to get injured is to try to change everything overnight—so just give it time and change one thing at a time while listening to your body’s feedback and staying within your fitness level the entire time. Then it’s just a matter of time before you master good running form.

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Go out there and RUN!

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