3 Steps to Improve Your Running Form

Many runners focus on achieving the perfect running form. While you can definitely improve aspects of your form, there's no single, perfect way to run. Every runner is different and what may work for one person might not work for the next. Despite various claims, there's no running form that will work universally for all runners.

As running biomechanics expert, Matt Phillips says: "There probably is some biomechanically perfect way to run based on the laws of physics and optimal efficiency. Unfortunately, due to your individual biological makeup, it's virtually guaranteed that your optimal and best running form is going to differ slightly (or maybe even dramatically) from this biomechanical "optimum."

The good news is that while there isn't a specific running style that's going to work for everyone, there are some biomechanical elements common to almost all successful running styles. In this article we'll present the research and findings on the three most important elements of efficient running form, and discuss how and when you should make these changes to your own mechanics.

Posture

Posture is the foundation of proper running form. While much of the discussion on form centers around footstrike and cadence, neither of those can be achieved without proper posture.

More: Running Technique: The Importance of Cadence and Stride

Good posture starts with the shoulders. Rather than arching the lower back, keep your shoulders pushed back, almost as if you're trying to touch your shoulder blades together. This opens up the chest, which also sets you up for optimal oxygen intake.

Proper posture involves leaning forward slightly from the ankles. Unfortunately, most runners get this wrong and think bending at the waist is the way to achieve this forward lean. Other runners have weak hip flexors and glutes, which forces them into this position. The lean itself needs to start at the ankles in order for the rest of the body to align.

Poor posture, or not being able maintain proper posture late in a race when you're tired, is one of the main causes of marathon muscle cramps. As a result of poor posture, runners slouch (or lean forward at the waist), which can sit the butt backward and result in less powerful strides. To compensate, the body recruits the calf and quad to help generate the power needed to maintain marathon pace. Since the calf and quad aren't accustomed to such a large workload, they quickly fatigue and begin to cramp.

More: Exercise Your Way to Perfect Running Posture

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