One of the most written about and discussed aspects of running is running form and how to perfect it. As we all know perfection is a myth, however, improvement is always desirable. I understand that we can’t deal with all running form challenges in one article so I thought I would see if I could simplify the guidance and help my readers find some desired improvements.
Running forefooted is preferred to all other landing guidance. Running forefooted no matter what corrective action running shoes you wear is what is recommended. Running forefooted does a much better job of distributing the force of a foot strike across the bottom of the foot.
Not sure if you run forefooted? Get a gait analysis done at a running store, sports medicine clinic or even a sports rehab center. Having gait analysis work done at running store with a licensed orthotist and or podiatrist assisting will give you various opportunities to learn what you may or may not be doing right and how your form can be improved. This is accomplished through running form guidance, testing and shoe and or insole recommendations.
Running proud is very simple. Run with your head up, looking forward, back straight and shoulders squared all the while staying loose. Once you loose your shoulders and don’t recognize they are tired your performance will suffer.
One of the easiest ways to learn if you are indeed running proudly is from time to time to check and see if you are hunched over or simply leaning over your shoes. You may also try rotating your shoulders a bit you and be able to determine that you are dropping your shoulders while running. If this doesn’t seem to help then you can record video of yourself at home on a treadmill or at a track to review exactly what your form does look like. Most coaches offer this service and introduce video capture fairly frequently when they notice problems in running form.
If you continually “lose” your shoulders in a race or while on longer training runs you have some new work to do. It’s likely that you need to do some functional strength training and core strength training. Seek out a coach to help you understand how to do this before lifting the first weight.
To run faster you must turn the legs over faster! This may mean that you need to alter the length of your stride. Shortening your stride can result in far more shoe strikes per minute (SSP). A faster cadence will help you to develop running economy faster than if you open your gait.
To know for sure that you are running with a cadence that is considered by many to be the target for a more economic running form shoot for 90 SSP. An SSP of 90 means a cadence of 180. The off-season is a great time to work on your cadence. Just grab a foot pod and hit the treadmill. First, run an easy pace and distance that you would normally. Take a look at the data to see how many SSP you are capturing. If you are hitting a cadence of 180 and still not reaching the speeds you think you should be its time to reach out to a coach.
Use your arms as levers
When I watch runners at races or while I see someone out running I pay attention to two things right away. I look to see if they are running proud and how they are moving their arms. I often find two problems. Those who look like their arms are cemented to their sides or those that swing their arms around the front of their body like they are in a prizefight!
We want movement in the upper body but rather than swinging your fist across the front of your body and wasting energy you don’t have to have to waste, relax! Instead, think of your upper body as serving two purposes stability and some propulsion. I like to think of my arms as levers. I tell my runners and multisport athletes that when they think the can’t run another step to change the focus to the arms and get the elbows up. Once again no need to swing those arms!
Exceptions to the rules
When running up hills I will often open my gait and lean over my shoes ever so slightly. This allows for more of an open hip angle resulting in more force and hopefully getting me up the hill faster. I have done this many times in races and it often allows me to pass those I have been pacing in flatter sections.
When running down hills I often shorten my gait even more in an effort to find some recovery while maintaining speed. I still try to present a proud posture all the will paying attention to what my body is telling me. If the grade isn’t too steep I might maintain my normal gait and cadence.
When you are sprinting or in the final few meters of a race and have something left in the tank and you are about to be passed or need to pass then use your arms to help propel you faster! Just remember that even though you are a runner those noodles you call arms need attention at the gym too!
Hope you found this article helpful. Have questions or other experiences related to running form leave a comment we would love to hear from you!
Until Next Time,
Train Smarter Not Harder