Proper running form is the key to becoming an efficient and injury free runner. To ensure you are running with the best possible form it is important for individual runners to assess the following: posture, cadence and foot strike.
First up, posture. The next time you go out for a run be sure to use the list below to assess your posture and to make sure you are properly aligned:
- Stand tall with a slight forward lean from your ankles (not your hips).
- Keep your eyes forward looking approximately 15 feet ahead (focus on shoulder blade region of the runner in front of you).
- Breath naturally through your nose and mouth.
- Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees with your hands loosely cupped and your shoulders relaxed. Focus on swinging your elbows back and your hands forward (slightly towards your midline).
- Keep your feet straight pointing in the same direction that you are running; forward (avoid turning your feet out).
Next, cadence. Cadence or step rate (steps/minute – spm) is defined as the number of times that your feet strike the ground in one minute. The ideal cadence that most running experts agree upon is 90 spm. Cadence is important because it is how you efficiently improve your running speed (running speed is defined as step rate x step length). Most runners need to first focus on improving their cadence. This can be accomplished by implementing running drills and strides into your weekly workouts to improve your running form. By doing so, we teach our “feet” how to turn over more quickly and more efficiently. In our order to achieve our quest of becoming a faster, more efficient runner, it is critical that we realize that step rate is only part of the equation. If we increase our step rate at the cost of decreasing our step length (i.e. shuffling gait) we will then negate any changes in running speed. The same can be said if we try to increase our step length (i.e. over striding) at the cost of our step rate. The key, increase your step rate (running drills, strides, etc..) without compromising your step length, or vice versa. It’s important to note that step length can be increased through exercises that increase your mobility, stability, flexibility and strength (ie. your weekly “strength” workouts).
The most efficient foot strike patterns are either a midfoot or forefoot strike. Landing below our center of gravity allows our muscles, fascia, etc., to absorb the impact we create while running. The issue with heel striking is that it typically causes a runner to strike the ground out in front of their body (forward to their center of gravity), slowing down their forward motion. In other words, a runner is essentially hitting the brakes with each and every step. This causes a runner to waste more energy and creates a greater amount of impact than necessary or desirable, thus contributing to the frequency of injuries among runners. Improving our cadence occurs when we land directly below our pelvis or center of gravity and take shorter, quicker steps. After all, an increased step rate = increased running speed; what runner do you know who doesn’t want to get faster and do so with less chance of injury?