3. Stand up straight and shorten your stride.
Remember what your mother told you: don't slouch. A slumped-over runner wastes energy and allows for over-striding, which means extending the leg so far ahead that the foot lands in front of the body's center of gravity.
Over-striding can lead to a host of problems, joint pain and knee injuries in particular. So keep your back straight, lead with your chest and bend forward only slightly at the ankles.
Shortening the length of your stride and increasing your cadence can make it easier to straighten up and resist over-striding. The average heel-striking runner tends to use longer strides and a cadence of 90 to 120 beats per minute (BPM), but the recommended cadence for optimal mid-foot running is about 180 BPM. That's three beats per second.
Get this cadence down and it may help achieve and maintain your correct form. Help yourself out by downloading a playlist of songs at 180 BPM for your iPod or carrying a small metronome with you.
Finding your mid-foot can make you a more graceful and energy-efficient runner. But there's nothing graceful about running with stiff, robot-like limbs. Loosen up.
Relax your shoulders, neck, hands, toes, and even your legs. Extra tension in your muscles wastes energy and can cause a lack in flexibility and extra soreness. Bend your knees, shake out all the stiffness and let your body choose which muscles carry you forward.
5. Listen to your body.
Switching from a heel-strike to a mid-foot strike is serious business. In the long run, good mid-foot form is easier on your joints and spine and strengthens your ankles, feet and lower legs. But it is a big change for your underused lower leg and foot muscles.
It is important to start slow—even slower than you think. Build mileage gradually and always listen to your body when it says stop. Most knowledgeable barefoot runners recommend starting with no more than 1/8 to 1/4 mile at first, and increasing distance by 10 percent each week.
For longer distance runners, this may seem ludicrous. However, learning a new running form is the equivalent to being a new runner. With that said, every runner is different. The smartest thing you can do is be patient, pay attention to how your body feels and avoid injuries by taking it easy during your transition period.
6. Learn from the Masters.
Finding your mid-foot takes a little more finesse than just throwing off your trainers and heading out the door. Fortunately, there is a wealth of advice out there on running with good form. Helpful guidebooks by masters of the sport like Barefoot Running Step-by-Step by Barefoot Ken Bob and The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard can be useful tools no matter what you wear on your feet.
You can also look to instructional videos, informational minimalist running blogs and helpful runner forums. There are even some barefoot and minimalist running coaches all over the country who can help you correct your form one-on-one in person or through email. You don't have to learn all by yourself.
So go ahead and ?nd your mid-foot. Your feet will thank you for it.
What are some of your tips for running with good form? Leave a comment below.Sign up for your next race.
Trisha Reeves is a half marathoner with more than 10 years of running experience.