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How to Run: Proper Running Form

When people think about how to run, they tend to focus on the feet. However, proper running form starts with the head and works its way down to the feet. If your head and upper body are aligned properly, your lower body and your stride are more likely to be correct. One of the important things to understand about running, is that you want to run in an energy efficient way. You want to run as efficiently as possible, in order to avoid tiring easily and to run as far and long as you can – injury free.

Perhaps an easy way to describe how to run is to “RUN TALL”; which means you should stretch yourself to your full height, with your back fairly upright.  

Below is a little more info on how to run tall. Don’t feel overwhelmed. These pointers are not there to help you run, they’re just there to help you run better. The more you run, the more you’ll understand the guidance and put it into practice. Don’t read this and feel you have to understand and do everything exactly right in order to run. Keep the main thing, the main thing. Just get out and run, the rest will follow. If you simply run tall, you’ll be doing most things right already. So, don’t worry! Read more about how to run, which has a video illustrating running form, and check out a beginner running program.

HEAD

Good head alignment is key to good running form. Look ahead towards the horizon, neither up nor down. This will straighten your neck and back, bringing them into alignment. Your jaw and neck should be relaxed and your chin should not jut out.

SHOULDERS

Keep your shoulders square, low, loose and relaxed. While you’re running your shoulders should remain square and level. They shouldn’t be swaying from side to side. No slouching. Don’t allow your shoulders to move upwards and become high and tight. If you feel your shoulders getting tense, shake them out and release the tension.

How to run - running form

TORSO

With your head and shoulders aligned correctly, your torso should be in the right position. Your torso should be almost straight, such that you’re running in an upright position, but leaning ever so slightly forward creating a completely balanced posture. Don’t lean back and do not hunch over. Leaning too far forward produces a stumbling, high-impact stride, placing excessive stress on the knees and back. Leaning backward will cause you to take overly long strides and land heavily on your heels, stressing the knees, hips and back. Running upright, with your shoulders back, opens up your chest for maximum lung capacity allowing you to breathe more easily. Don’t twist your torso from side to side.

ARMS

  • Your arm movement matters, as it helps propel you forward during running. Your arm movement also helps to minimize rotation of the torso. Keep your elbows bent at an approximately 90 degree angle.
  • Your arms should be relaxed and move in concert with your leg stride.
  • Swing your arms up and down. During the upward swing bring your hands in and up towards your sternum. During the downward swing bring your hands out and down towards your waistband. Keep your movement moderate, don’t swing your arms too high or too low, ie keep your arms between waist and chest level.
  • While your arms should swing in and out a little, they should not swing across your body. Most of your arms movement should be forwards and backwards.

HANDS

Keep your hands and wrist relaxed, with your hands in an unclenched fist. Your fingers should lightly touch your hands.

HIPS

Positioning your hips is not so easy to get your head round. But really all it is, is that your hips should point straight ahead. Your hips should be positioned correctly if your head, shoulders and torso are properly aligned. If your torso is leaning too far forward or leaning backward, it will also tilt your pelvis and push your body out of alignment.

KNEES/LEGS

In endurance running the knees are not lifted high, but kept fairly low to create an energy efficient stride. Lifting the knee high, as in sprinting, requires a lot of energy and is mostly done to create power and speed. Also, keep knees slightly bent to absorb the impact when you hit the ground. Don’t make too long a stride, but aim for your feet to land underneath your body. If your lower leg extends in front of your body, you’re making to long a stride. Running tall with a low knee lift will help stop overstriding.

FEET

Your foot should hit the ground lightly. Land on the midfoot area and quickly roll your foot forward onto the ball of the foot/ toes and spring off the ground. You should not be thumping each time you make impact. Running should not be hard and noisy, but be soft, springy and quiet!

9 comments

  1. Great article! I love the visual…thank you!

  2. I wish I look that good while running!

  3. I wish I was that skinny! I’m gonna try this and create a workout/ running/yoga plan!

  4. Well, my legs are superhuge, in wich EVERYTHING is muscles. I look so ugly in a dress and in shorts, would someone please tell me what to do about it, what exercise/es should I do to slim down?

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