Discomfort while running is a big reason why some runners get discouraged and may give up on the sport. Yet sometimes discomfort can be remedied with some minor tweaks to your running form. Improved running form can also prevent future injuries, which will keep you running longer and stronger. You’ll also run much more efficiently if you run with proper running form. And, if you’re just getting started with running, improving your form can make running feel a lot easier.
Follow these tips to work on developing proper running form.
1. Keep your feet pointed straight ahead.
Make sure your toes are pointed in the direction you’re headed. Running with your feet pointed in or out for long stretches could lead to running injuries. If your feet point outward or inward, focus on running with your toes pointing straight ahead for short stretches. The more you practice it, the more natural it will feel.
2. Look up and ahead.
Keep your eyes focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. Some runners are tempted to look down at their feet. Don’t do it! If you’re staring at your feet, you’re more likely to hunch over and develop neck or shoulder pain. Beyond just being a proper running form technique, looking ahead is also a safer way to run because you’ll be able to notice potholes, bumps in the sidewalk, sticks and other hazards and avoid falling.
3. Don’t overstride.
Some new runners try to reach their foot out to take longer strides and end up overstriding, which wastes energy and may also lead to injury. To avoid overstriding, try to have your feet land directly beneath your hips.
4. Focus on taking short, quick steps.
Try to keep your stride low to the ground and focus on quick stride turnover. Try to avoid bouncing and bringing your knees up high. You’ll waste a lot of energy, pound your joints, and fatigue your muscles if you have too much up-and-down movement. Keep your feet close to ground, but don’t drag them. You should be taking short, light steps, as if you’re stepping on hot coals.
5. Rotate your arms from the shoulder.
Swing your arms back and forth from your shoulder joint, not your elbow joint. Imagine your arms as pendulums, swinging back and forth at your shoulders. Focus on driving your elbow backwards and then let your arm snap back toward you. You should almost feel your hand grazing your hip as your arm rotates forward. If you’re having a hard time getting the swing right, practice it while you’re speed walking first, then transition into a run.
6. Keep your hands at your waist.
Try to keep your hands at waist level. Your arms should be at a 90 degree angle. Some beginners have a tendency to hold their hands way up by their chest, especially as they get tired, and start to look like a T-Rex. You may actually get even more tired by holding your arms that way and you’ll start to feel tightness and tension in your shoulders and neck. You’ll also lose the momentum and power that you get from rotating your arms at your shoulders.
7. Run tall.
Make sure your posture is straight and erect. Keep your head up, your back straight, and shoulders level. Don’t lean forward or back at your waist, which some runners do as they get fatigued. Imagine yourself as a puppet with a string on top of your head that’s pulling you upright.
Keep checking your posture as you’re running. Your shoulders should be relaxed and square or facing forward, not hunched over. Keep your shoulders under your ears and you should maintain a neutral pelvis. When you’re tired at the end of your run, it’s common to slump over a little, which can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain. Stick your chest out when you feel yourself slouching over. This also opens up your lungs more, so it will be much easier to breathe.
8. Keep your arms at your sides.
Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. Imagine a vertical line splitting your body in half — and don’t let your hands cross it. If your arms do cross over your chest, you’re more likely to slouch, which means you’re not breathing efficiently. Inefficient or shallow breathing can also lead to annoying side stitches, or cramps in your abdominal area. Running with your arms swinging at your sides will allow you to practice deep belly breathing.
9. Keep your hands in a loose fist.
Try to keep your arms and hands as relaxed as possible. You can gently cup your hands, as if you’re holding an egg (or a potato chip, if you prefer) and you don’t want to break it. Don’t clench your fists because that tightness will move up your arms, shoulders, and neck.