Trying to improve your running technique? Then you’ve come to the right place.
I can’t emphasize enough the benefit of proper technique.
When it comes down to it, the human body is made to run. According to evolutionary thinking (and running gurus like Chris MacDougal), running is one of the most natural actions of the human body.
Some scientists even claim that running is what made us human in the first place. (For more on this, check the Endurance Running Hypothesis Wikipedia Page for a treasure trove of information and research references)
All you need to do is put on some shoes, and off you go.
That said, proper running technique is something you have to learn. It’s a long process of trial and error—a learning curve that every runner has to undergo.
In this article, I’ll share with you a few universal rules of proper running technique so you can run faster, farther, and with less fatigue.
Let’s lace up and dig in.
Running Technique Rule No. 1 – Stand Tall
Imagine there is a plumb line running from above your head down through your trunk is a perfect vertical line.
Build the habit of checking your posture every 10 to 15 minutes to make sure everything is all right and on the right path. Running shouldn’t make your head and neck tense. If so, that means your posture is off.
Running Technique Rule No. 2 – Lean A Bit
There is a big difference between gravity-assisted leaning and bending forward at the waist.
Slouching, or too forward-leaning from the waist, is a common form error committed by many runners who try too hard to master the forward lean.
But doing so can only put undue pressure on your lower back muscles.
So, what should you develop the forward lean without committing this costly mistake?
Slightly lean forward all the way from the ankles, not the waist. This encourages proper alignment of your entire body in a straight line, all the way to your head.
Imagine that you’re falling forward. Aim to lean forward enough that you might tip over but still keeping your balance. This relatively unstable position aids in the forward propulsion, which, in turn, makes you run faster and longer.
Just whatever you do, do not lean too far forward or too far back—that’s bad form, and you don’t want bad.
You should also avoid bending backward or forward from the waist, as doing so puts a lot of pressure on the hips.
Running Technique Rule No. 3 – Keep A neutral Head
The way you hold your head has a huge impact on your overall posture, which, in turn, can influence how efficiently you run.
Keep your head up, and in line with the shoulder, so the chin is parallel to the ground. Allow for no side-to-side or up-and-down motion.
Let your gaze guide you forward. Focus on the ground 15 to 20 feet ahead of you, scanning the horizon.
Avoid looking down at your feet, as doing so can lead to tension in your neck and shoulders, especially in the latter portion of your runs. Do not allow your chin to jut out.
Running Technique Rule No. 4 – Pump Your Arms
Running is mainly a lower-body sport, but the upper body also helps with the forward propulsion, especially your arms.
Keep your elbows bent at about a 90-degree angle with your elbows almost pointed away from your torso, arm swinging from your shoulders in a relaxed manner.
What’s more, move your arms in conjunction with your legs.
Running Technique Rule No. 5 – Keep it Relaxed
Even though you might be pushing yourself hard while logging the miles, you MUST keep your body relaxed the entire time.
Tensing up is the last thing you want to do since you waste a lot of energy, and anywhere you’re holding to it, you’re misusing essential fuel that could be used up elsewhere.
Do the following to ensure that your body is relaxed during a run.
- Know your tension spots.These include the face, jaw, shoulders, and hands. Breathe deep, slightly open your mouth, shake out your arms, release your shoulders, unclench your fists, let your cheeks wiggle, and shake out your arms.
- Release your shoulders.Keep your shoulders relaxed and square while facing forward, not hunched over. Remember to raise them every a few minutes during a run, and then drop them back down to a proper and relaxed position.
- Keep a neutral head.Jutting your head forward while running places stress on the neck and shoulder muscles, which causes a lot of tension. Hold your head so that your ears are roughly over the middle of your shoulders.
- Unclench your hands.When you clench your hands into tight fists, tension will move from there and spread to your shoulders, neck, and the rest of your body. Imagine that you’re holding an egg in each hand—tight enough to keep it in place, but not too tight that it breaks.
- Run softly.Land on your mid-foot, then roll smoothly through the forefoot. Avoid flicking off the toes as your foot leaves the ground. Keep your toes relaxed. Slightly bent your knees to keep your legs loose.
Running Technique Rule No. 6 – Strike It Right
A foot strike refers to how and where the foot makes contact with the ground. Think of it as your signature as a runner—the footprint you leave behind with every step you take.
Your foot strike has a huge impact on your overall alignment, posture, and energy transfer through the kinetic chain.
According to the current theory, a proper foot strike can prevent running injuries—especially those sustained to the knees.
There are mainly three basic types of foot strikes: neutral, overpronated, and supinated.
But all in all, the jury is still out.
Land on the Forefoot
According to my (non-scientific and completely subjective) observations, the forefoot strike is most suitable for beginners.
Here is how to do that
Aim to land below and just in front of the center of gravity on the mid-foot. Your foot should land slightly ahead of your center of gravity, with the leading foot facing directly forward.
Think light and fast steps.
Land as lightly as possible, spending as little time in contact with the ground. You should not be making any loud noises
Land on the middle of your foot, then roll quickly through to the front of your toes, keeping the toes pointed in the direction you want to go the entire time.
Running Technique Rule No. 7 – Improve Your Cadence
Foot strike is a controversial topic in the running world, yet experts agree that the best way to improve it is by taking short and quick strides.
This may reduce movement within your body, especially in the ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. Less movement reduces the impact on your body, which should cut your injury risk.
Running cadence refers to the number of times your feet hit the ground during one minute of running.
Most experts agree that the optimal cadence is about 180 steps per minute, and that’s a goal that every runner should strive for.
To find your cadence, count the number of steps on one foot for one minute and double it to get the rate of your total step.
As a general rule, shoot for a stride rate of about 180 or 90 per foot.
Increase your cadence slowly and incrementally. For example, if you usually run with 167 steps per minute, shoot for 170 to 174, keeping your stride behind and landing faster.
To assist you in this, use a metronome (musician’s timing device) or an app. This way, you’ll improve your leg turnover without a great deal of effort.
Running Technique Rule No. 8 –Practice Drills
If you want to take your running technique to the next level, try adding some drill training to your workout routine.
Drills also prepare you for fatigue. In short, you gain more endurance so you can keep your technique in control.
Here are a few options
- Hurdle mobility exercises
- Leg swings
perform these drills as a workout in itself or as a warm-up part of a run or workout. Complete each one as fast as possible and make sure to perform them with good form. Slow down and stop the drill if you notice that your form is going south.
Running Technique Rule No. 9 – Find What Works the Best
My best advice? Let your foot do its own thing. Don’t interfere. Don’t fix something that ain’t broken.
Running should feel natural and smooth. That’s why you should not try to force your physiology and biomechanics to match a theory or way of moving.
You are the judge on that, and you should strive to find what works the best for you. If you’ve already found it, then kudos. Keep up the good work.
Try adding these elements of proper running technique to your next runs and see how efficient and comfortable your training becomes. You might also realize that you can run faster and further when your technique improves.
Keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it is the optimal running technique. Fortunately, a lite time invested in prating the above guidelines can make a drastic difference in your running performance down the road.