A blog by runners. For runners.

How to perfect your running form

The above video demonstrates proper running form and the below bullets explain in more detail what each part of your body should be doing.

Having good running form can maximize your running efficiency and help prevent nagging discomforts and serious injuries. Check in with your body on your next run to see if your form is ideal.

Good form: 101

  • Posture: Mom was right when she told you not to slouch. Stand with your back tall and head facing straight ahead. Without good posture, you won’t perform your best.
  • Head: Keep your eyes glued on the road ahead of you, not below you. Looking down will compromise your posture. Gazing ahead will naturally keep your neck and back in alignment. Be careful not to lift your chin because this will put pressure on your neck.
  • Shoulders: Before you start running, shrug your shoulders, slowly roll them down your back, and hold them there. For shoulders remember “low and loose”. Not only will this help maintain good posture, but it will also help keep your upper body relaxed. Try not to tense your shoulders and bring them up to your ears — it’s common to do this towards the end of a run when you feel fatigued. Running with tensed shoulders can waste energy and cause aches and pains.
  • Arms: Running seems to be all about the legs, but your arms can help you get faster, too. When you pump your arms at a quicker rate, your legs will follow suit. Bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle and hold that angle throughout your run. Arms should move back and forth in a straight line — don’t bring them across your body. As your arms pump, your hands should be almost parallel to your shoulders in the most forward position, and just behind your hip in the most backwards position.
  • Hands: Just like your shoulders, it’s important to keep your hands relaxed. Your hands control the tension in the rest of your upper body, so don’t run with a closed, tensed fit. Instead, lightly cup your hands and keep your wrists loose.
  •  Stomach: Run with your abs engaged to help protect your low back from injury. It’s also helpful to take deep breaths from your stomach — this will help prevent side stitches.
  • Legs: Experts say the trick to efficient endurance running is a “slight knee lift, quick leg turnover, and a short stride” (sprinters need to lift their knees higher to generate more power). If you have a proper stride length, your foot will land directly beneath your knee and, upon landing, your leg will be almost perpendicular to the ground. If your foot extends out in front of your knee during landing, your stride is too long.
  • Feet. Foot strike is a big debate among running experts. Most say it’s better for your ankles and knees if you land somewhere between your heel and mid-foot. Then you should quickly roll your feet forward and push off from the ball of your foot. Your feet should hit the ground softly — you shouldn’t hear your feet pounding. Try to envision yourself as a gazelle, lightly and effortlessly leaping.

Does your form need a makeover?

If this seems too complicated, try not to sweat it. Watch any race and you’ll see various types of form — even among the top finishers.

Some running experts say it’s fine to run using whatever form feels best to you. And some research agrees. One study found that novice runners’ form improved naturally as they gained more experience and learned what movements felt right. So if you’ve been running for years without issues, it may be best to follow the old “don’t fix what’s not broken” advice.

Written by Jen Matz / Video by Angel Russell