Do You Have Bad Running Form?

Everyone has a slightly different gait due to individual biomechanics, but some form mistakes are just plain avoidable. Don't let your wonky stride hold you back from getting faster!

The Cheerleader

Unless you're cheering on the sidelines of the football field, your heels don't need to come up that close to your butt. Cheerleader runners overexaggerate the back of the stride and wind up spending too much time in the air, using more effort than necessary.

More: The Keys to Flawless Running Technique

Avoid it: Try some hill repeats while doing butt kicks to see how much energy you're wasting. Work hard on quickening your turnover rate, and your body will be forced to spend less time in the air. Count your cadence (how many times your right foot hits the ground) for 30 seconds, and multiply it by two. Aim for 85 to 95 steps per minute.

The Giant

Other runners know you're coming from a mile away. If you can hear your feet, you're landing too hard. Your muscles and joints already accommodate two to three times your body weight with every step, and pounding doesn't help. And it's not just bigger athletes—even 90-pound women can have a foot strike that will shake the earth.

More: Foot Strike: How to Prevent Knee Injury and Pain

Avoid it: Think like a ninja. Focus on landing softly and rolling through your stride, springing off every step. If you run with music, ditch your iPod and do periodic "sound checks" throughout your run.

The Unicorn

Animals in the horse family may benefit from long, stretched-out strides, but overstriding keeps us humans from running at max speed—and makes us more susceptible to injury. When your foot reaches out too far in front of your knee, you're essentially "putting on the brakes" and stopping forward momentum.

More: 5 Tips to Improve Your Running Form

Avoid it: Work on landing with your foot under your center of gravity. Lean forward from the ankles and use your hip flexors (not your quads) to lift the knee slightly. Incorporate drills such as high knees and butt kicks, and do a few 10-second strides before every run to quicken leg speed.

The Old Man Shuffler

You're not 95 years old, so stop running like it. The Old Man has a tendency to surface when you're tired, and he's also very prevalent at the end of an Ironman, when all will to pick up your feet has gone out the window.

More: 3 Drills to Improve Your Running Technique

Avoid it: Dedicate part of your warm-up to drills such as high knees, high skips and butt kicks. If you find yourself shuffling during a race or workout, throw in a couple high knees to focus on your knee lift and activate your glutes and hamstrings.

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