◊Developing and maintaining a proper running form is key to running efficiently while minimizing risk of injury. Here is a brief, head-to-toe overview of what a proper running form looks like:
◊Your head should be up, with your eyes focusing ahead of you, and not looking down on the ground.
◊Shoulders should be drawn back, relaxed, and moving independently of your torso. As you take a step forward with your left foot, your right shoulder should move forward concurrently, and same with your right foot/left shoulder. Hunching your shoulders can result in tight and tense muscles, which can affect your performance, and just be darn uncomfortable during and after long runs.
◊Keep your arms in loose 90° angles, close to your sides. They should follow the movement of your shoulders, but without crossing the midline of your body.
◊Your hands should be loose and relaxed – one way to practice this is by imagining you are holding a potato chip between your thumb and middle or fore finger. Clenching your hands into fists expends unnecessary energy.
◊You want to keep a long torso, with a slight forward lean, hinging forward at the waist. I like to imagine a string pulling me upwards and a little forward from the top of my head. Keeping a long, tall spine while running will help prevent getting hunched over, and a little lean will help ensure you are using the posterior muscle chain versus the anterior muscles. The posterior muscles are bigger and stronger, and are what we humans are evolutionarily developed to use when running.
◊Your knee and foot should form a line, so when your foot hits the ground, it’s right under your knee and not out in front of your body. Your shin should be close to perpendicular to the ground when the foot strikes. This allows your ankle, knee and hip to absorb the shock and then propel you forward.
◊Generally speaking, a fore-to mid-foot strike is ideal, where you’re landing on the ball of your foot. However, depending on your natural gait, it may make more sense to change your shoe, rather than your stride, in order to stay injury-free.
◊One way I’ve found to be helpful in assessing my own form is by recruiting a friend to take photos of me in burst mode on my phone as I run by them. This way, I can observe my body in several different positions through several strides in order to determine where tweaks can be made. This is also super useful in a coaching session, as I can show someone exactly what their body is doing, and then provide simple steps in how to correct it.
◊When working on your form, try not to change too many things at once. Otherwise, you might get overwhelmed or injured because you are trying to force your body to do too many unfamiliar things at once. Starting from the top and working your way down, work on making sure your shoulders are relaxed, your hands are loose, you’re hinging forward at the hips while maintaining a tall spine, and then work on keeping your feet under you as you strike the ground.
◊For those who like a visual aide, the red figure is what you’re trying to avoid (note the heel strike, foot hitting the ground way in front of the body, and lack of lean), and the green figure is what you are aiming for (note the mid-foot strike, foot landing under the body, and slight forward lean, hinging from the hips)!