Whether you are a beginner or competitive runner, running form is important for more reasons than one.
In fact, fixing your running form does not only help to prevent injury, as is well known, but can improve running performance overall so that you can run faster and for longer.
This is especially important if you are planning to run competitively in long-distance running events such as 5k runs, 10k runs, half marathons, marathons, and ultramarathons.
It’s worth mentioning here that no one is immune to poor running technique. Even elite runners, when fatigued, can exhibit bad running form – whether they are aware of it or not.
Despite that, good running form should still be strived for as much as possible. And this guide on how to fix running form will provide all the tips and techniques that you need to know.
Signs Of Poor Running Technique
First of all, what are the signs of poor running technique?
Of course, poor running form is not always easy to tell, especially if you are a beginner runner. But there are signs to be aware of that can indicate bad running form. These are:
- pain and discomfort while running, experienced in the feet, ankles, shins, or knee joints
- prolonged soreness or pain in the days following a short or long-distance run
- excessive swinging of the arms while running
- heavy footfalls or one foot landing heavier than the other
- pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulders, or hips
Common injuries that can result from poor running technique include shin splints, stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis, “runner’s knee”, iliotibial band syndrome, chafing burns, and more.
If at any point you experience pain while running that is unfamiliar or unusual, the best thing to do is to stop, assess the pain over the days that follow, and consult a doctor if deemed necessary.
The Benefits Of Correct Running Form
There are a number of benefits that can come from practicing correct running form, which are not limited to preventing injuries and improving overall performance.
In a quick summary, the benefits of good running form include:
- reduced risk of injury and pain
- increased running pace
- ability to run longer distances than usual
- improving and strengthening joints, ligaments, and tendons in general
- improved breathing and cardiovascular output
- improved energy preservation
- more effective building of muscle in the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves
How To Fix Running Form
Now that you know the signs of poor running technique and the benefits of proper running form, here are the must-know tips and techniques on how to fix your running form.
First of all, it is important to maintain a level chin while running. Your neck should not be craned, strained, too far forward or too far backward.
Try to look directly forward while running unless necessary (such as checking your surroundings).
Your shoulders should also be relaxed, not hunched or pulled back. Keep your arms loose, but not tightly tucked or swinging at more than ninety degrees.
As a rule of thumb, your hands should not pass the line of your body while swinging backward.
Lastly, maintain a straight, proud (but not rigid) posture while running, engaging your core and glute muscles. You should not be leaning too far forwards or backward.
Proper Running Foot Strike
Running foot strike, or running footfall, is where running form becomes more technical.
It goes without saying that most of the momentum is led by the legs and feet, so proper foot strike is important – if not the most important component of good running form.
Each stride should be led by the knee, with the driving foot landing directly beneath the knee joint.
As for foot strike, correct form involves landing flat between the heel and ball of the foot, before using the ball of the foot to spring into the next stride.
While running, you should never land on your toes or heels.
All these tips for correct running form might seem like a lot to process at first. But, with mindful practice, correct running technique will become second nature over time.
Other Ways To Fix Running Form
Aside from the above physical tips and techniques, there are other ways to improve running form.
These include correct breathing while running, wearing appropriate clothing while running, and choosing the surface or ground on which you run.
How To Breathe While Running
There is no single rule on how to breathe while running, but it is something to be mindful of.
In any case, breathing to match the energy demand is important; do not breathe too fast or too slow.
Inhale and exhale through both your nose and mouth, and time your breaths with your steps if you find that it helps.
Managing your breathing can help to improve your pace and conserve energy. Before running, you might also find it beneficial to warm up using a specific breathing technique, which you can do while stretching.
What To Wear While Running
Wearing the wrong clothes while running can have a negative effect on running form, especially if the attire is too loose, too tight, unnecessarily heavy, or generally uncomfortable.
Most experienced runners wear tight, but not restrictive, running clothes, such as compression shorts and shirts, made from breathable nylon or polyester fabric.
Another benefit is if the fabric is both light and moisture absorbent.
More importantly, it’s crucial to wear suitable running shoes that fit. In general, running shoes will have a cushioned heel that provides support, cushioning, and a slight spring in each stride.
Finally, another factor that can improve overall running form is the ground or surface on which you run.
Uneven ground, such as gravel or grass, can impact running performance and even cause you to fatigue more quickly.
Ideally, it is best to run on flat, even ground across a course that does not involve too much elevation or descents.
If you live in a hilly or rural location, it might be a good idea to opt for running on a treadmill.
Treadmills offer a great way to practice running form and can even help to increase overall performance due to the forward momentum of the running belt.
Practicing good running form can not only prevent pain and injury but help to increase running performance on the whole.
This can lead to improvements in pace, distance, muscle growth, joint strength, and energy management.
It is not always possible to maintain strict running form as even professional athletes lose form when fatigued.
Despite that, good running form is worth being mindful of, as well as practiced as much as possible, to reap the numerous benefits that it offers.