Over the last several years, the barefoot movement has become the latest craze. Popularized by the bestseller Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, there are now entire shoe companies dedicated to creating shoes that mimic the barefoot style of running.
The book claims that running in minimalist running shoes will help prevent overuse injuries because you're forced to run with proper running form.
But what exactly is proper running form and how does it contribute to preventing injuries?
Many runners took the overall message to mean a midfoot or forefoot strike. Instead of aggressively smashing the ground with your heel, you're supposed to land with a more neutral foot strike.
The big mistake that the majority of runners make is they believe that foot strike is the most important element of running form. It's not.
In fact, it probably isn't in the top three critical elements for adopting efficient running form. Instead, let's look at what's really important.
Posture (Your mom was right...)
Your mom had a good point years ago when she told you to stop slouching. Too often runners lean forward from the waist or hunch their shoulders, both of which contribute to inefficiencies and imbalances that keep you locked in the injury cycle.
Instead, focus on standing tall. A helpful cue that works well is to pretend a string is attached to the top of your head and pulls you upward toward the sky.
Don't worry about your forward lean. Most runners get this wrong and instead of leaning from the ankles they lean from the waist. An erect, tall back is the most helpful way to improve your posture while running.
What's Your Cadence?
Your cadence is simply your step rate, or how many steps you take per minute. This metric provides a great indicator of other aspects of running form like overstriding and foot strike. If you get this right, it often takes care of several other elements of your form.