Running Form

Just like any other athletic skill, there is an optimal way in which people can run in order to place less stress on the body and make you more efficient.

Key Traits For Optimal Running Form

5 Key Traits:  

  1. Forward body lean with neutral spine posture

  2. Arm swing with elbows flexed between 45 and 75 degrees

  3. Flex from the hip to initiate your swing phase

  4. Initiate your foot strike as soon as the swinging knee pulls forward

  5. Push downward into the ground as you make initial contact

Why you do it:  To efficiently move your body in a coordinated and symmetrical way that allows you to engage the correct muscles in the correct sequence while placing less work and stress to the rest of the body.  This will equate to improved running economy and improved performance.

Running Drills

Running drills help to combine the 5 key traits into a functional movement pattern that will allow you to re-train your neuromuscular system to automatically display these traits.

Cadence: Number of steps you run per minute. A metronome is a commonly used tool to train at a specific cadence.

Set your metronome to a beat that is 5-10% more that what you currently run at. To determine your cadence, count your steps while running for 30 seconds and multiply that number by 2. Add 5-10% more to that number and that number will be your goal cadence. For example: I count 80 steps/min for 30 seconds. 80 x 2 = 160 steps/minute. 160 x 5% = 8. My new goal cadence is 168. Set metronome to 168 and practice the above drills with this new cadence.

  1. March in place w/ metronome

  2. Forward march w/ metronome

  3. Run in place w/ metronome

  4. Invisible ladder run w/ metronome

**It is recommended that you follow-up your drills with a 1-mile run either on the treadmill (recommended mode of practice) or flat, quiet running route with limited stops. This will allow you to immediately apply the key traits to actual running.

For each drill, perform them for 5-10 second intervals as long as you can maintain good form while following the cadence of your metronome.  Perform 3-5 sets of each drill.

You can perform these drills 5-6 days per week.

Tips For Applying Running Form Changes To Your Running Program

  • Don’t apply these run form changes immediately to all of your training runs.  Your body’s tissues (bone, muscle, tendon, ligament) requires time to adapt to the new ways in which they are being loaded and stressed.  Although these changes will ultimately lead to a more efficient running style, it doesn’t mean that your body can’t react negatively to the changes.  Just as in anything, moderation is key.

  • Do sprinkle in these technique changes into your training runs intermittently.  Our recommended strategy is to start sprinkling in these form changes at intermittent moments during your regular training runs.  One specific strategy is a 4:1 ratio--ie. for every four minutes run, you run one minute with the form changes.  

  • Don’t worry about executing all five of the key traits if it is too overwhelming to apply all of them.

  • Do work on one or two key traits per run outing to focus more easily.

  • Don’t fret if you can’t coordinate the movements.  Making changes to your complex movement patterns is like applying paint to a wall.  When painting, you need to apply a coat of paint and allow it to dry before applying another one in order to achieve the desired result.  Think of these form adjustments as “painting” different movements onto your body. They need time to “dry” before applying more cues.

  • Do seek help in getting one-on-one coaching if you’ve gotten too frustrated to work on it on your own. The efficiency, performance, and improved running enjoyment lies at the end of this process.