Have you ever run in your life, and have you ever thought about proper running form? Most people who just run for fun, don’t think about how they run. Because of the lack of knowledge, a lot of people have a higher risk of injury like runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis, hamstring issues, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, or a stress fracture. Cottonwood’s biology teacher and track coach, Jason Baker, says, “Good running form provides two things: number 1 it’s more efficient. You’re doing a correct running form, you’re landing on your mid-foot, you have that forward balanced posture, right cadence, you’re 30% more efficient. So you’re going to be faster. The 2nd reason is it does reduce injuries, ‘cause if you’re landing on your foot wrong, you’re causing more shock to the leg, and everything else in the body. So you’re going to increase your chances of injury.” Here are tips on how to work on your running form to prevent injuries.
You might think running is all about your lower body, but your technique needs to be dialed in from the top to bottom, so with that said, don’t look down when your running. Don’t tilt your chin up or down, because after you run for a long time, you’ll get tired, and you’ll just happen to do that, so just practice. Your eyes can look anywhere, but a focused gaze (looking forward) helps maintain proper posture, which keeps your neck in proper alignment with your spine, which is really important. Your head is key to overall posture because this determines how efficiently you run. After you practice enough, this will straighten your neck and back, and bring them into alignment. And remember, do not look down or up, no matter how tired you are.
We spend so much time hunched over when we sit down, like when we’re on our phones, but it’s crucial to open up your shoulders while you run. You should pull them back, almost like you’re squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blades. If you’re starting to hunch over, it’s going to affect your speed or endurance. Basically, your shoulders are moving independently of your torso and the opposite of one another. So when you take a left step forward, your right shoulder is also moving forward, but your right shoulder is back when your left leg is back. They should go in a X pattern. It is common to get tight and tense in your shoulder area, almost like you’re shrugging. This will cause your body to lose energy, so it’s important to stay relaxed. Shake out your arms, shrug your shoulders, and focus on loosening up, especially as you get fatigued. If you practice this, it will help your running form.
The way you move your arms can help you move faster or it can slow you down. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle each time you run. Your palms or fists move from chin to hip, that will help you push your body forward. Keep your elbows close to your sides, but not too close to the point where you’re going to elbow yourself. If your elbows point out from your body, that means your arms are crossing your body, which actually slows you down a lot because you’re using a lot of energy. You won’t be able to get the momentum you need. Try pointing your thumbs to the ceiling to keep your arms in line or imagine an invisible line that runs down the center of your body. That technique will help you to not let your arms cross over that line.
To most people, they don’t think hands are as important when running. First off, you need to keep your hands relaxed. Just pretend you have a potato chip between your index finger or your middle finger and your thumb so that your hands are really relaxed. It is really important to keep your hands relaxed, because the more you squeeze your hands, the more energy that you’re getting rid of, which will make you go slow.
In most forms of fitness, your core is really where all the power of your running comes from. It’s also your center of gravity while running. It’s an area you want to make sure you’re always training. The best way to look at it is to not crouch down because if you’re crouched down, you can’t use any of that elastic energy that comes from the ground up. You always want to keep a tight core while running because this will prevent you from going too far forward or too far backwards. Above all, make sure you’re not hunching, because it will block your airway when you run, so keep your torso straight, and lean a little forward.
When you’re running, you want lean slightly into the run versus running completely upright. That lean should come from the hinge at your hips, and not from rolling your shoulders forward or from your back. That means your torso will be slightly forward to your hips. If you’re unable to do this, you can’t use your hip base or your gluteus maximus to derive the most power you can get out of your running or strides. The best way to do this is leaning forward, which is the concept of using your glutes efficiently.
Your knee is basically a spine for your legs, just like your shoulders are a spine for your arms. Your knee should be in line with the middle of your foot so that when your foot strikes the ground, it’s right under your knee. You don’t want to lift your knee up to a 90-degree angle if you’re on a flat road, you want to keep it down low so you’re not wasting that energy on the knee drive. Lots of runners, especially when they’re fatigued, struggle with the runner shuffle. It’s where they’re barely picking their feet up off the ground. If that’s what you struggle with, you can try lifting your knees a little higher so you have more time in the air for your foot to get in the right position for landing. You really want to focus on keeping that knee directly in front of your hips.
Everyone’s stride is a little bit different, and that’s okay. The easiest way to think about your lower body is to think about your shin being as close to perpendicular as possible when the foot hits the ground. If a person is a heavy heel striker, their angle is too big; if they’re a forefoot striker, their angle is too small. Either way, it’s a negative position to be in because you’re opening yourself up to injuries in the other foot or knee. You also won’t be using all the joints you have in the right timing sequence. But if you land at that 90-degree angle, then you get to use your ankle, your knee joint, and the hip joint all at the same time to both absorb shock and then create energy. That’ll help you prevent injuries like the runner’s knee or shin splints.
Now here is an important body part – your feet. Many non-runners or beginner runners start on their heels, which is known as heel-striking. The more you do it, the more likely you’ll have a lot of injuries in the future. An easier way to prevent this is landing on your mid-foot. It can get difficult when you’re landing on your heel because it feels more comfortable. A way you can land on your mid-foot is to take off your shoes, and run on a treadmill or run barefoot outside. This will help because when you don’t have any cushion on your heel, it’ll hurt a lot, and you’ll be able to land on your mid-foot, even when you don’t notice it. Basically, the idea is to aim to hit the road with the ball of your foot. That’s going to help you propel forward better, and your stride won’t come out too far in front of you. Running on your toes (foot-striking) or striking with your heel (heel-striking) are both more likely to set you up for injury. So just practice landing on your mid-foot to prevent injuries.
So in all, you need to practice good posture, landing on your mid-foot, and making sure your shoulders and hands are as relaxed as possible. DON’T look down or up, keep looking forward. And in time, when you practice these steps, you’re more likely to be injury free. The important thing to remember is to “…be patient; take it one step at a time.” Mr. Baker states, “There’s different things you can focus on………..improve with it.”