There’s a lot of BS about running technique out there, especially the idea that you either run “wrong” or “right”. The truth is, running is far more complex than you’d think.
In short, there isn’t just one “right” wayto run. Runners should find a stride style as close as possible to the optimal range of running technique, bearing individual factors in mind and shouldn’t change this unless absolutely necessary. This is partly because altering running style is actually quite difficult, so it should only be corrected when necessary.
The basics of running technique
When it comes to running, there are a set of guidelines you should consider to optimize performance. Running with correct technique can reduce the risk of injury, improve efficiency and increase speed.
6 things you should bear in mind next time you’re running:
- Always make contact with the ground on the outside edge of the foot, either at the midfoot or forefoot (the front of the foot) depending on how fast you’re going and what feels natural. Generally, the faster you run, the more you will attack the ground with the forefoot.
- Initial contact should never be made on the heel, even if you’re running slowly. This heelstrike technique creates a higher braking force, reducing the elastic energy stored in the leg muscles, leading to more time spent on the ground, a slower pace and increased pressure on the ankle, knee and hip joints. Both forefoot and midfoot running styles reduce this braking effect and impact on the joints.
- Once you’ve made contact with the ground, don’t lift your foot too quickly. This reduces the force that can be transferred from the body, meaning that your stride won’t take you as far. Similarly, while you shouldn’t strike the ground heel-first, you should always make sure that your heel does touch the ground to maximize the force released by the lower leg muscles.
- As force is transferred, support should move from the outside to the inside edge of the foot. The big toe should function as an anchor to keep the foot moving as one unit (trying to run without toes would be a lot harder than you think!).
- Aim to balance the vertical (bounce) and horizontal (length) movement of the stride. This will result in an optimal extension of the hip which will increase the force that can be transmitted to the ground, making your run more efficient.
- Consider your arms. The angle at the elbow should be as small as possible to allow the arms to move quickly. If the angle is too large, it takes more time for the arms to move and there is a greater rotational force to counter. Your arms should also not cross the center of the body as this creates too much rotation and wastes energy.
The shoes you wear can have considerable impact on your running technique and often reduce the negative effects of certain styles, so we risk reverting to these again. Consider running barefoot occasionally as you’re more likely to adopt a forefoot or midfoot stride this way.
Can you change your running style?
Changing running stride style is difficult and involves identifying a specific cue or issue to work on. This could be heel striking, a particularly bouncy stride or the overextension of the hip. Once the cue is identified, work on specific isolated movements that are the opposite of the cue. Over time, your running form may change slightly.
Both midfoot and forefoot running can be considered “correct” running techniques so whichever you select is dependent on your natural preference. However, it’s generally not advised to use a heelstriking technique as this can lead to injury. Just as important is the ability to recognize when your running technique might be doing you harm and what you can do to change your style when necessary.