Regardless of level of experience and ability, it’s important for runners to understand basic elements of running, particularly with form. Unfortunately for much of the running population, efficient running form is largely ignored and often understood.
Part of the confusion can be attributed to a lack of a general consensus among coaches on correct form, in addition to lack of solid scientific research on training methods for running. Fortunately, much like the sport itself, there is a growing interest in how to improve one’s running and form and how it can play a significant role in the development of a runner.
Benefits of Proper Running Form
Some of the benefits that may result from a more efficient running style: are minimizing the risk of injury, using less energy and increasing efficiency in running, reduction of muscle fatigue, reduction in unnecessary movements and optimizing oxygen intake. On the other hand, some runners who try to correct their running form can run the risk of injury by overcompensating one aspect of the form and is not uncommon. Still the vast majority of coaches will agree that maintaining or improving running form far outweighs the drawbacks.
Key Elements of Running Form
When coaches analyze runners, they’ll often point out inefficient movement and then offer suggestions or training methods to adjust their form. And surprisingly enough, almost everyone will have some sort of irregularity with their running style, whether it’s bouncing as their running or not relaxing enough. The following are the important elements of running form to consider.
1) Posture – Surprisingly, for many runners, correct posture doesn’t always come easy but once they know how simple it is, can definitely see improvements. Runners should be aware of any excessive forward leaning of the upper body, particularly when they are getting tired. Some issues that will likely arise from months of an excessive forward lean can result in soreness in the lower back region, in addition to neck soreness. Depending on the distance, runners should try to maintain a natural posture with head facing forward and level, back straight but not rigid, shoulders relaxed, and arms comfortably bent at approximately 90 degrees at either side of the body with relaxed hands and not tightly clenched. Another inefficient movement with arms and hands is the tendency to them across the body, which is simply wasted energy. Many runners also have a tendency to look down at their feet while running whether this is to watch out for road/path hazards. While it is always important to maintain safety throughout the course of a run at any distance, it is generally recommended to keep the eyes looking straight ahead up to a distance of about .35km or 40 yards.
2) Foot placement – Many runners tend to have a tendency to strike the ground with the heel of their shoes. This habit can cause lower leg problems such as Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, Plantar Facscities, knee pain, heel pain and stress fractures. This habit is also inefficient in the sense that heel strikers are slowed down it produces a braking effect. Part of the problem is that the proper way to walk is with the heel striking before the rest of the foot lands on a surface. To alleviate any or all of the running related injuries, it is recommended that runners try to land in the midsection of their feet, also known as the ball of the foot.
3) Foot stride – Many runners have a tendency to overstride but what they don’t know is that cadence or turnover is much more efficient. The tendency to overstride can also cause an assortment of running related injuries, particularly to the hamstring muscles, hips, knees and upper back, in addition to energy inefficieny. Overstriding and lifting knees too high are very common inefficient habits amongst runners and one training method to alter this type of running is by avoiding heel striking and cadence drills to improve turnover.
4) Bouncing – This style of running is another common form of inefficient running and is perhaps the easiest of the examples listed. Many runners who have this tendency will not realize unless a training partner or coach points it out. What happens when bouncing is a lot of wasted energy and like other forms of inefficient form is increased risk to injury, particularly to the quadriceps muscles, knees and joints. There are some excellent methods to help overcome this tendency including reduce stride length, increase cadence and try to run more “lightly”.
Not every runner can have the luxury of having a running coach but anyone can ask a friend or relative to observe their running form. By understanding the basics of running form, most runners can not only enjoy running more, they can be running much more efficiently.