Many runners are unsure if they run with good form, and many more are unaware that they even have a problem with their form. The potential benefits to perfect running form can be incredible, but not many runners are blessed with both the time and a coach to help them work on their form. Small tweaks to your form that you can work on by yourself during your runs can help you preserve energy, run faster, and feel more comfortable.
Good Posture: Your Arms
In high school, I was running in a 5k race and mid-way through, a fan standing on the sidelines of the race course yelled out to me and told me to lower my arms. Apparently, during the race my arms had “scrunched up” and were very tense. If this happens to you, it is a sign that you are wasting energy by tensing your arms. This can cause you to wear down quicker during a race.
Form Tip: Your arms should be relaxed and at your waist. They should be at approximately a 90 degree angle and should swing right by your waist (or a little bit higher). On the up-swing, your arm should come close to crossing the center of your body, or close to your sternum. Your arms should swing using the least amount of energy possible; it should be a swing and not a push or a lunge with your arm.
It may not seem important, but the way your hands are positioned can impact how you feel and perform when you run. Like all other ways to improve your form, fixing your hand position can help preserve energy and can help keep you from hitting a wall so soon.
Form Tip: Your hands should be very relaxed and should form an opened fist. Your thumb should rest somewhere on your finders but should not be in a position that causes tension. To keep from wasting energy, you should not tense your hands and you should definitely not hold a fist during your run.
Land on the Middle of Your Foot, Not Your Heel
In the past it has been a common belief that landing on your heel for every step is the correct way to run. It began when walking was observed and it was believed that running should have the same form as walking. Because of this “revelation,” running shoes had been designed behind this idea, causing shoe companies to incorporate extensive cushioning on the heel of the shoe. When landing on your foot a shockwave is generated, but when landing on your heel, the shockwave travels up your legs and up your spine. This can cause injury and pain in your back.
Form Tip: You should land on the middle of your foot. When taking a step coming off of a stride, you should be landing on the outside of your foot, and then you should roll onto your heel. This will allow for your foot to cushion itself from the shockwave and absorb the impact. When running barefoot, your body will tend to naturally land on the ball of your foot, but modern shoes make it difficult to do so and cause a tendency for you to land on your heel. Shoes that imitate barefoot running, such as the Vibram FiveFingers and Nike Free sheos, offer a platform for you to feel more inclined to run with more natural form. If you are not used to running barefoot or are newer to running, it is important to note that barefoot running shoes cause an increase in the usage of muscles that you may not be used to using such as the front of your shin (may cause shin splints if used too often) and the bottom of your foot.
Relax and keep your shoulders straight
When swinging your arms, your torso should not twist a lot. It’s important to keep your torso straight and aligned with your hips in order to preserve as much energy as you can. If you are a skier, or have ever skied, you may know that it is very similar in that you must keep your upper body straight as your arms and legs move to propel you forward.
When running you should keep in mind that the form of each part of your body may make a difference, but it is how your body smoothly moves with little energy waste that will make you a better and more efficient runner.