Have you ever met someone who no matter how hard you try to, you can never keep up with them? That they never look like they’re trying to run fast? That their style looks a little weird, or awkward? All of these things could be due to they are running with the proper form of running. Keep reading to find out about running form and potential improvements in your endurance and your speed.
If you are just starting out, this may help you to improve your running. The proper form of running helps you to avoid injury. If you’re quite an experienced runner, small differences lead to huge gains. It certainly did for me.
How You Feel vs What People Say
Depending upon which 20 people you ask, you’re likely to get 20 different answers on how form affects your running. What is good for you, what is not. You need to be careful with your understanding of the drivers for a lot of these responses.
They may be training shoe manufacturers, and may have an ulterior motive. If they are from a movement such as barefoot running, maybe see all answers as barefoot running. I’m not necessarily saying any of these groups is wrong, but you should examine their motivation.
There is also a lot of content out there that is based on different factors of running, such as natural running, chi running, and so on, and these groups will tell you different ways that it could or should be done. The proper form of running may be hard for you to start with. This could be because of how developed your muscles or fitness currently are (or are not).
I will instead concentrate on things I have tried, and how that makes me feel. The ideas come from research I have done, in addition to my own opinions as well. I am in no way saying its right for everybody, or there are not better ways. I hope that you read this, and it sparks an interest in the biomechanics of the body, and you find what works for you and your proper form of running.
The Proper Form of Running – Why?
My search for the proper form of running was borne out of a need to prevent injuries from regularly occurring. These injuries disrupted any training plan that I have had. I also thought that the top runners don’t have these problems, so what is their secret?
I started out reading things on chi running. This technique means you do not put your feet forward of your hips when you run. They land directly below your hips. You “lean forward from the ankles” to increase your speed, and “lean back from the ankles” to decrease your speed. You keep your torso upright, and your head up. It actually means that you’re using momentum and gravity to propel you forward. It’s very good to use the method of leaning forward and back to control speed when trail running.
Different Foot Strikes And Your Running Form
A midsole strike is when your toe lands first, and your weight rolls onto you heel. A heel strike is running and your heel hits the floor first, and a toe strike is on your toes. These all have varying degrees when one becomes the next style. There is nothing wrong with heel striking as such – we all tend to do it when we get tired – but does that tell us something? A toe strike is when you land on the toe and stay on it.
Of these styles, I like to toe strike the most – but it is also the most tiring. You will have to build your calf muscles, and muscles in your foot to be able to run long distances in this way. If you do, you will likely find the run less demanding on your joints, or the bottoms of your feet.
I certainly found this to be the case – the extra shock absorption from the toes meant I felt fresher having done a run and recovered a lot quicker after it. If you get the forwards lean correct, you feel a little like you’re gliding along – it’s a beautiful feeling. You feel like you’re springing along like a gazelle (even if it doesn’t look that way!)
I also find that the actual running is easier, and takes less energy (so long as you have the calf and foot muscles to propel you the distance) I have run with friends and kept pace with them at the same speed as I normally do, but then find I have a “boost mode” if I need it, to push out a slightly faster pace, or a sprint finish. It’s just easier.
Heel Striking – Longer Distances
I find when you get tired, and particularly when I “zone out”, I will heel strike. Do you find that too? Heel striking always leaves me sore – my feet ache, and my knees sometimes also. I never feel like an athlete when I finish.
I find if I’m doing a long run, a training run, I attempt to do a midfoot strike. It seems better with my toes a little more pointed than you would find will naturally happen. This means that my heel hits the ground, but I also get a bit of shock absorption from my Achilles tendon as well.
If I’m doing a shorter run I run with a toe strike and try to make sure that I do so for the whole distance. This would typically be a 5 to 10 km run – I have done it for 25kms, but I had to build up to that distance.
I find if you’re exhausted, and your muscles are at their limits, you’re likely to do a hobble type run, and that’s very likely to be heel striking. This is because your muscles have either little or no capacity to assist in shock absorption. This style of “zombie apocalypse running” does not feel good, and is not a pleasant sensation, so much so that I find it jars me back into trying to mid-foot strike if I possibly can do.
Running Form: Knee Driving vs Pushing Off
A little trick that you learn when you run barefoot is, do not push off with your back foot, but instead land. When you reach the limit at the back of the stride, pick up the knee, and drive it upwards. Then landing in the neutral position with your foot below your hips. This is especially useful when running up hills, particularly if you’re tired, as it seems less taxing than actually trying to use your muscles to propel you up the hill.
General Exercise / Cross-Training
After running my last marathon, I realized that I had not been very smart with the way I trained. I concentrated on running, getting a lot of hours running in. That is important for your endurance, but only up to a point. You also need a strong core, and strong legs to be able to run faster without cramping up. This advice is applicable to any distance that you run, strength will improve your performance, reduce the change of injury, and quite possibly help with your running posture. I would recommend as you rest between runs that you do some exercises, these could be something like swimming, or bodyweight exercises, and that you work your whole body. Remember the aim isn’t to do bodybuilding, but to be fit, and have your body capable of being able to take on any demand that you put upon in.