Ask The Expert

Best Ways To Improve Your Running Form (Tips For Better Technique)

We asked a selected group of fitness and running experts for their top tips when it comes to improving your running form and technique

How To Improve Your Running Form
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Are you looking to improve your running form and technique?

Perhaps you’re just getting into running and want to make sure that you’re doing it right, or maybe you’re more experienced and are looking for ways to improve your technique.

We asked a selected group of experts for their top tips and advice when it comes to improving your running form and technique.

Here is what they said.

Strengthen Your Core And Practice Hill Sprints

Greg Billington, Professional American Triathlete and Tagalong Pro Coach

Why is running important to you? Setting a PR? Meeting great people? Looking fly while you get nice calves?

Good form matters for all those things. Look at this guy:

Man Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

I do not know what he is doing, but it is certainly not any running I’ve ever seen. Is he trying to take his triple jump form to his morning jog? Squash a particularly offensive spider?

From the over-striding to the intent stare at his own fashionable shoelaces, one thing is clear: this guy is trying too hard. Don’t be that guy.

Here are the top three tips to keep you running fast, smooth, and chill.

1) Relax

Don’t waste energy with tightness! You think Kipchoge tenses up? That guy runs a sub-2 marathon smiling. We should all be a little more like Kipchoge.

Let your legs do the running and relax your shoulders, face, and hands.

2) Get a strong core

A strong core isn’t just for good looks, it makes sure that the force delivered to the ground is transferred smoothly into whole-body forward motion.

Make sure to include single leg and contralateral exercises because running is, really, just a bunch of tiny single legged leaps.

3) Sprint up hills

I got to the Olympics by running hills. Not just because my coach wanted to see me suffer, but because it works on a ton of running fundamentals. Forward lean is excellent – you have to do that when sprinting up a hill.

Same goes for ensuring you don’t overstride. High cadence? You absolutely must have that when running up a hill. And to maintain good form, you need to be fit – running hills is excellent for that.

Remember: don’t be that guy above who is trying to win the distance per stride competition. Try less. Do more. You’re still trying too hard. Relax and go run.

Man Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Avoid Overstriding

Jordan Duncan, Owner of Silverdale Sport and Spine

A great tip for improving running technique is to avoid overstriding. You want to focus on contacting the ground as close to your body as you can for a given speed.

Where your foot contacts the ground is very important for a variety of reasons. If your foot lands closer to your body it creates lower ground reaction forces compared to contacting farther in front.

Landing closer to your body also helps with torso posture.

Ideally, you want a vertical orientation of your trunk when you run. Overstriding and contacting too far in front of the body often results in a forward torso lean.

This can be corrected by landing closer to your body. While you can’t contact the ground directly under your body while running, you want your foot to land as close to your body as you can for a given speed.

Woman Running in Park

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Ryan Hill, Physical Therapist and Co-founder of The Stride Shop in New Orleans

Runners have been inundated with information about what they should and should not be doing when running and it can be overwhelming.

Luckily, the research is catching up to its popularity and there are simple truths you can rely on to make your running safer and more efficient.

So, let’s simplify what you need to know: there is no such thing as a perfect running form for runners.

Man Running On Road

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Many articles tout a certain foot strike (which part of your foot hits the ground with each step), cadence (the number of steps you take per minute) or a stretching routine that will make you a great runner.

But every person is different, and your body will find its most efficient form with proper training strategies and exercise.

The part that most articles leave out with their recommendations is that your body needs the proper capacity and control to tolerate running with YOUR perfect form.

You can use all of the tips and tricks out there, but if you haven’t established the basic tolerance that your body needs, they will not work!

Physical therapists can use a battery of simple physical performance tests to assess your readiness to run safely and decide what parts of your form need improvement.

Running is an extremely common form of human movement, and it is easily accessible as a form of exercise. But many of us aren’t good at running, which is why we need to practice the components!

So, how do you “practice” for running without running?

• Perform exercises that create specific demands on your body similar to running.

• Build the capacity in your muscles and tendons that are needed to run well.

• Engage your body through drills that carry over to your running and help keep you healthy.

We recommend beginners get fitted. Go to your local specialty running shoe store and try on four to five options. Most good running shoe stores will allow you to test them out and return/exchange if needed. Don’t just walk around in them in the store.

Next, we recommend all beginners get started with a jog/walk program as opposed to hopping right into running. You want to start slow and steady.

We also highly recommend a support system! Accountability partners are so important.

Running Race

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Shorten Your Stride and Relax Your Body

Jamie King, Yoga Instructor, Ultra-Runner and Founder of Flex & Flow

• Focus on strengthening your hips and glutes. Runners tend to be weak in their glutes or hips—and the instability that comes from those weaknesses can lead to injury.

The more you strengthen your glutes and hips, the more efficient your stride, and the less likely you’ll experience injuries.

• Run tall! Keep that posture straight. Most of us spend far too much of our day hunched over a desk.

As you run, focus on standing tall and keeping your core tight.

This will help you run more efficiently and avoid injuries. The best way I’ve found to support good posture while running is to keep a regular yoga practice and of course incorporate core work in my regular training.

• Shorten your stride. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see your foot when you stride forward, your stride is too long.

Ideally, your ankle and knee will be in line when your foot hits the ground.

• Relax your body (especially your shoulders!). Tensing through your neck and shoulders restricts your arm movements, which are essential to maintaining balance and rhythm as you run.

Try to release tension from your shoulders so that your arms can better support you in a fluid, easy stride and help share the work with your legs.

Music and Headphones While Running

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Correct Your Anterior Dominance

Josh Schlottman, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Our lifestyles have made us more anterior dominant than ever before. It’s one of the most common issues with runners, athletes and just about everybody. We’re sitting much of the day, whether it’s on the couch, at your desk or in the car.

Our bodies have evolved to sit with hip flexion, meaning the legs are bent at the torso. This hip flexion shortens your hip flexors. And when your hip flexors become shortened they also become overactive. This causes an anterior tilt of your pelvis.

You can check if you have this by standing sideways in the mirror and seeing if the front of your pelvis leans downwards while the back tilts upwards.

When running with dominant hip flexors, your body wants to compensate by leaning back and overextending.

Then, since your hip flexors are dominant and overactive, you’ll whip your trailing leg forward when running. This causes your foot to go too far forward leading to heel striking. Having overactive hip flexors is one of the most common causes of heel striking.

The solution is to release the tension in your hip flexors and strengthen your glutes. If your glutes are strong and if the muscle is firing, then your hip flexors will naturally relax.

To release your hip flexor tension, grab a lacrosse ball and place it on the front of your hip (about where your index and middle fingers are when you put your hands on your hips).

Lay face down on the ground and massage the ball up and down along your hip flexor for a minute. Then perform a standard kneeling hip flexor stretch to lengthen the muscle.

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