Fitness Articles

How to Run with Proper Form and Technique

Find Your Stride with Our Running Guide

3.4KSHARES
Finding Your Stride
One of the most common mistakes new runners make is overstriding. When you extend your lead foot too far out in front of the body, it lands in front of your center of gravity creating a breaking effect. This can lead to injury issues such as runner's knee and shin splints. Also, make sure your strides are not too short and choppy so that you appear to bounce; this is just as inefficient as overstriding. It is far better to understride than to overstride, however, but you should find a stride length that is comfortable, almost effortless.

Over time, your leg turnover or "cadence" will get faster. You may also find your stride lengthening, but this is not due to overstretching the lead leg as many new runners do, but rather from increasing the forward motion of the rear leg.

Be careful not to lift the knees too high as doing so can lead to fatigue in the quadriceps (front of the thighs).

Footstrike
Footstrike refers to how, where, and when the foot hits the ground. There has been a lot of debate in the running community as to whether heel striking or mid-foot striking is a better approach to endurance running; however, the reality is that most average runners are heel strikers. In other words, they land with their heel first and roll to the ball of the foot. This comes naturally to most people, but striking with your heel can increase your risk of injury—especially to the knees—and may set you up for shin splint or hamstring injuries. Over time, it isn't uncommon for a runner to change her footstrike as she develops greater muscle strength in addition to developing stronger connective tissues in his legs and feet. A mid-foot strike, in contrast to a heel strike, provides greater shock absorption, decreases strain on the calves and Achilles tendon, and may help prevent shin splints. As long as your foot strikes the ground directly below your center of gravity—not too far ahead (as explained in the Finding Your Stride section above)—the best technique for you is the one that allows you the best running efficiency while preventing injury.

As you develop greater muscle strength and the connective tissues supporting the legs, eventually you may find your footstrike evolving into a more advanced technique known at the ball-heel-toe strike. This occurs when you land lightly on the outside ball of the foot then quickly roll to the heel only to push off with your big toe.

Run to the Hills
Hills can bring anxiety and dread to runners of all levels. It is usually a runner's biggest concern when scoping out races or courses to run. Nevertheless, the more you practice, the better you can cope with the terrain changes you encounter.

Runners should practice both uphill and downhill running, which both demand different running techniques. Uphill running requires greater power from the hamstrings (back thigh muscles), glutes and calf muscles, while downhill running requires greater use of the quadriceps.

Before you begin training on hills, it is best to have run on a flat surface for several months first. Even though many people believe uphill running poses a greater injury threat, it is actually downhill training that can pose a bigger risk, especially if you do not have a solid running foundation.

Once you start hill work, remember to keep these training runs to no more than 1-2 days a week, while allowing for adequate recovery before trying them again.
Continued ›
‹ Previous Page   Page 3 of 4   Next Page ›
3.4KSHARES

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Nancy Howard Nancy Howard
Nancy is an avid runner and health enthusiast. A retired pediatric nurse, she received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Texas Woman's University and is also a certified running coach and ACE-certified personal trainer.

Member Comments

  • Thanks for sharing - 11/15/2013 7:37:00 AM
  • I don't like running that much. I like to walk. - 7/20/2013 8:49:29 PM
  • No, she actually said quite clearly that heel strike is bad, bad bad -- read it again! That horrible picture (about which I completely agree) probably influenced what you thought you read.

    I really like this article overall, I just wish the really important stuff as regards injury (stride and foot strike) had been put up front where people prone to "tl;dr" would be sure to see it. - 3/25/2013 9:10:18 PM
  • SNYDERSOFVLORA
    you start the article with a picture of bad form, then in the article you say heel strike is OK- WOW- yes heel strike is great running form for other people to use if you are an orthpedic surgeon! - 3/5/2013 4:05:19 AM
  • Switching from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike was awkward at first but holy moley what a difference!! Knee pain? COMPLETELY GONE! Not only that but I have more power and am able to run much faster now. Granted, my calf muscles were in agony for the first 4 days because they were not used to that motion but they recover quickly and did I mention, NO MORE KNEE PAIN!!!!!
    I am through my first 5 (of 8) weeks of Zombies, Run 5K training and for the first time I have some hope that I'll actually be able to run the entire 5K by the time I finish the series!! - 2/20/2013 11:12:53 AM
  • "This occurs when you land lightly on the outside ball of the foot then quickly roll to the heel only to push off with your big toe."

    Does this mean you land mid-strike, roll your foot backward, then roll it forward again? Ain't nobody got time for that!!! - 2/5/2013 10:14:13 AM
  • Why does the accompanying picture demonstrate bad running mechanics such as over striding, heel first foot strike and the centre of mass behind the foot strike with the knee locked? - 1/13/2013 7:30:41 AM
  • BEAUTIFULSOUL71
    This is a very informative article.. Thank you for sharing. When I run or walk my feet don't always seem to come off the ground. I'm not sure the correct term for this.. But ik it's not good for my walk or jog. - 10/3/2012 2:00:21 PM
  • I am so glad to hear there was a way to get rid of the side stitches. I thought it was just something I had to deal with until I became more fit. Same for the neck pain. Excited to try these techniques out tonight on my run! - 9/20/2012 1:51:05 PM
  • RYAN092409
    I have to say that I am new to running and literally just started a week ago I ran 1.5 miles everyday for 5 days and was exhausted and breathing to hard that my throat would hurt. I started reading some articles and found that everything this article has in on different sites. So I slouched, had a long stride, and was chest breathing. On the sixth day I tryed all of these. I ran with my back straight and head up, this helped me with to belly breath. I also shortened my stride a bit. I went from 1.5 miles one day to 2.7 miles the next. I could have kept going but i was tired from a long day at work. This truly does help for the beginners. I used to get discuraged and quit running after a week due to lack of results but I am now excited to go for a run. - 8/7/2012 1:54:45 PM
  • Before I had read this article I would walk/jog/run while breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. I would always get those side stitches so I will definitely practice the belly breathing. It'll be a challenge trying to focus on that while running but to not have those side stitches would be wonderful they always hold me back from continuing. I've also been having trouble with what exactly my foot strike should be I was running on the balls of my feet is that bad form though I'm still kind of confused by that. Great and very informative article though thanks a bunch!! - 8/2/2012 3:25:38 PM
  • Great article. Getting the form right is a challenge but, adjusting the swing of my arms has helped. I will try fixing the face :) - 7/19/2012 4:38:59 PM
  • Without meaning to sound disrespectful, I 'd be happy to just be able to RUN again
    :( - 5/29/2012 9:07:38 PM
  • Thanks for the great read, Nancy. This is the second time I've read it and will continue to do so as a refresher in my journey. I've learned a lot from your contributions and guidance. All the best....Monty - 5/17/2012 9:12:58 AM
  • Great article!! I'm just starting out and very guilty of the shallow breathing and always looking down. I have a hard time with looking up. Too much track work, I guess. I'm going to go down the list one at a time and work on each area. Thanks for the great article! - 10/25/2011 6:53:51 PM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Running: 7 mph (8.5 minutes per mile)  |  Running: 6.3 mph (9.5 minutes per mile)  |  Running: 5.7 mph (10.5 minutes per mile)