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What is considered “CORRECT” Running Form?
This is a question that many new (and experienced) runners may find themselves asking. The reality is that there is no such thing as “perfect” running form but here are a few things to look for in your own form that can make running more efficient and pain free!
When it comes to overall running posture you want to be upright with a slight forward lean. Many new runners confuse this thinking that they should lean forward from the waist but the lean actually comes from the ankles!
It can often help to think about running as a “controlled fall” where you are cycling your legs through to prevent yourself from ever actually falling.
Footstrike is often a big emphasis for runners trying to improve their form, however studies have shown that it is not as important HOW your foot makes contact with the ground (heel, forefoot, midfoot) but rather WHERE your foot makes contact with the ground in relation to your body.
While it is largely accepted that a midfoot strike is more efficient than a heel strike this does not make it right for everybody. In fact, a runner is more likely to injure themselves when trying to adjust their footstrike than actually get faster.
There was once a thought that when barefoot running or running in zero drop shoes runners will naturally “correct” to a midfoot strike but this has actually been proven wrong in studies like one conducted in 2013 by GWU.
At the end of the day when it comes to footstrike we should follow the classic advice of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So if you don’t experience any pain from heel striking then there is no reason to correct your footstrike.
Now, how about WHERE you are striking the ground in relation to your body? This is usually what should be focused on instead of footstrike.
When a runner lands IN FRONT of their body or center of mass, this is what we call OVERSTRIDING. This is bad because when we land in front of our bodies we are essentially “braking” and halting our momentum. This can cause pain in the knees, shins, ankles, calves, etc, as well as slow us down significantly.
Instead of landing in front of our bodies we should be focused on landing only slightly in front or under our center of mass. This can be difficult when running at slower paces but another way to look at this is to strike the ground with your foot as it is already traveling backwards instead of “reaching” out your foot to touch the ground.
Here is a visual example of what it looks like when we are landing under our center of mass. If you take a snapshot of yourself running and you can see your knee extended out in front of you then there is a good chance you are overstriding.
Many runners look very STIFF while they run, especially in the arms and shoulders. Well we’re here to tell you to RELAX!
When it comes to your arms and shoulders you should aim to relax the shoulders down and keep your arms bent at around a 90 degree angle. This isn’t something that you should force and for the most part the natural bend in your arms will be just fine.
When it comes to actual arm swing where most people get it wrong is that they are terrified of crossing the arms in front of the body. When we run our hips and shoulders actually rotate so our arms should actually naturally swing in front of the body. This isn’t a movement that needs to be emphasized necessarily and for the most part the arms shouldn’t cross over the imaginary line that runs down the middle of your body.
For 99% of runners having good posture, landing under your center of mass, and utilizing a relaxed natural arm swing is good enough that you won’t need to stress any of the little things here and there that the pros might look at.
Remember, there is no such thing as “Perfect” running form but by correcting these few things you’ll find yourself running more efficiently and less likely to get injured.