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The Do's and Don't of Proper Running Technique

There are many things you can start doing and stop doing to improve your running form to achieve optimal running economy and help prevent injury. Efficient runners are faster, better runners! But first things first, everyone's running form is going to look different and be slightly different... and that is normal! But there are key form tips to be aware of and implement into your running to improve your performance.


  • Run with your feet under your center of mass: Think about your feet falling right underneath your body instead of out in front of your body. Note that some runners will naturally forefoot, midfoot, or heel strike, but the main thing is your feet are landing underneat your hips, not reaching out front. There are certain injuries that you are more at risk for with each type of foot-strike, and you should consult with a physical therapist to see if altering your foot strike will decrease injury for you. Everyone is different!

  • Think “ quick feet." Think about quick feet rather than a longer stride! Your want less ground contact time, think about running on lava, taking quick LIGHT steps. Ideally you want a higher running cadence, or steps per minute. For this, you need to quicken your foot strike, NOT lengthen it! If you have a running watch that records cadence data, take a look and see if you need to quicken your steps. As with your stride, the stronger of a runner you get, the better your stride will improve as well.

  • Look ahead. Don't stare at your feet. Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. Not only is this proper running form, but it's also a safer way to run.

  • Think about a slight forward lean from you ankles, also know as "hankling." This allow you to gracefully fall forward and helps your feet land underneath your body. Think about gliding through the air, not bouncing.

  • We are ALL different. Look at the elite pack running during the next marathon that you spectate. You will notice that they are all running tall, running with relaxed arms, and are landing under their center of mass. HOWEVER, you will notice slight differences in exactly how their feet strike the ground and their exact arm movements. The same goes for recreational runners and hobby joggers! There are things you can do to improve, but there will always be natural differences from one runner to the next.

  • As with anything, the more you do it, the better you get. The more you run, the better your form will get. Consistency is king.


  • Don't bounce. If you bounce when you run, known as vertical oscillation, your head and body are moving up and down too much, which wastes a lot of energy. The higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater the shock you have to absorb when landing and the faster your legs will fatigue. To minimize bounce and save energy, run lightly, and land softly on your feet. Try to keep your stride low to the ground and focus on quick stride turnover. Take short, light steps, as if you're stepping on hot coals.

  • Don't cross your arms over your midline: when your arms cross over your midline (your belly button) you are transferring energy side to side instead of FORWARD. Forward motion = faster motion!

  • Don't run tensed up: instead, think about relaxing your arms into a 90 degree angle. Pretend you are holding potato chips in your hands that you don’t want to break. Think about getting your shoulders out of your ears! Relax your body, relax you run.

  • Don't slouch or hinge from the hips. Slouching most often occurs because you aren’t engaging your core. Think about running tall, almost like you have a string being pulled from your feet to your head to make you run upright. This will allow for better breathing!

  • Don't reach your foot way out front and try to take large steps, this will actually slow you down, increase your risk of injury and make you an in-efficient runner.

Running is a skill that must be developed over time. Pick one thing to improve on at a time! If you try to fix your arms, cadence AND slouching at the same time, you might feel like throwing in the towel altogether! It's about making gradually incremental changes, and trusting the process of improvement.

Also, before speeding up, mastering the skill of running easy is important for improving running mechanics. Running 'slower' requires patience and a focus on base gliding, which involves landing, allowing the body to move forward over the planted foot, and pushing back.

Things to try first: practice running in place! This will help you land underneath your body. Then practice running on an angle against the wall: place your hands on a wall with your body having a slight forward lean from the ankles, then jog / sprint in place. As you keep advancing, add in reverse lunge to knee drives, A Skips, A Marches, banded knee drives, step up to knee drive and various other runnings drills, but above all, remain consistent with your running routine.

Xo, MK

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