Learning how to run properly can play a huge role in your success as a runner – with everything from performance to physical fitness, health, efficiency, and even enjoyment.
Many runners mistakenly assume that they will naturally settle into correct running form with time and experience. However, for most, mastering how to run properly is actually a skill that needs to be learned and intentionally practiced.
Is it important to run properly?
Running properly is absolutely important. Incorrect running form can lead to a myriad of problems, such as recurring injuries, insufficient performance, unnecessary fatigue and much more.
Numerous studies have been completed to demonstrate the importance of running technique. Correct running form is important for runners of all ability levels, from beginners and recreational runners, to elites and professionals.
How do you know if you are running properly?
Determining whether or not you are running correctly can be a bit tricky. In order to do so, runners will first need to know exactly how to run properly, so they have a standard to which they can compare themselves.
Next, runners need to evaluate their form and technique somehow. To do so, runners find it helpful to take pictures or even a video of themselves running if possible. Watching yourself back on video can be very eye opening, as it’s often hard to know exactly what you look like without it.
Another way to determine whether or not you are running properly is to complete a few technique drills to assess where your current form, strength and technique stands.
What is the correct way to run?
Although every runner is different, proper running form involves the same characteristics regardless of skill level, size or shape. In nearly every case, running properly involves relaxed shoulders, a fast cadence, midfoot strike and a slight forward lean.
4 Steps to Run Properly
How to run properly: lower body
The lower body plays a crucial role in correct running form. Many beginner runners mistakenly overstride, creating an upright posture with a slow cadence and heel strike. However, correct running form actually involves taking short, quick steps to create a fast cadence, land on the ball of the foot, and lean forward slightly.
- Midfoot strike – aim to land on the ball of the foot
- Short stride – take fast, quick steps to maintain balance and achieve a slight forward lean
- Quick cadence – aim for an ideal running cadence of 180 bpm; the feet should strike the ground 180 times per minute
How to run properly: midsection
The core is often forgotten about when runners consider how to run properly – but it plays a crucial role. Strengthening the core can help maintain balance, avoid imbalances or muscle inactivity, and keep the body upright and strong when the legs begin to fatigue.
- Strong core – strengthen the core to encourage well-balanced muscle activity throughout the body on the run
- Minimal twisting – maintain a stable, upright position without twisting while pumping the arms
How to run properly: upper body
The upper body position and form play key roles in overall efficiency and strength on the run. Arm swing provides strength and momentum during even the hardest run or workout, while upper body tension can have a lasting effect on efficiency, soreness and recovery.
- Forward arm swing – avoid “chicken arms”, or an arm swing that crosses the body; pump them forward and back to aid the running motion
- Relaxed shoulders, neck and head – lower your shoulders and breathe out any tension in the neck
- Eyes fixed ahead – avoid looking down or directly at your feet; instead, fix the gaze just ahead so the head is relaxed
How to run properly: breathing
An often overlooked, but critically important, component of running form is breathing. Learning how to breathe correctly while running promotes maximum efficiency, calorie burn, and performance.
- Breathe deeply – breathe through either the nose or mouth, sending air into the diaphragm to avoid raising the shoulders or creating tension
Understanding exactly how to run properly is an essential first step, but the knowledge doesn’t go much further without intentional practice. Implementing these practices requires consistency and focus before they become habit. Completing regular drills to assess your running form is a great way to check in at the start of your journey, as well as to monitor your progress along the way.
4 Drills to Help Run Properly
These drills are quick and easy to try, and can be completed on just about any run. Incorporating these drills in your routine on a regular basis will help keep track of your progress and monitor anything that needs adjustment.
Arm stability drill
Run with your arms straight out from your sides, parallel to the ground. Continue for 1 – 2 minutes at a time and minimize twisting at the core as much as possible.
Use your phone or watch to set a metronome to 180 bpm. While running, attempt to match your cadence to the metronome – striking the ground with one foot each time the metronome clicks.
Running the line drill
Center yourself over a straight line on either a track or running path. As you run, attempt to straddle the line so each foot lands on the opposite side – never crossing.
Core strength exercises
Try adding some full body core exercises to your weekly strength training routine. V sits and planks are and excellent choice.
V Sit: lay flat on your back, with your arms extended straight back behind your head. In one motion, lift the legs and arms from the floor, bringing them up and towards each other to meet above your stomach. Lower back down to the floor and repeat.
Plank: with your stomach facing down towards the floor, lift up either to your elbows or hands, while extending your legs back behind you. Distribute your weight evenly between your toes and elbows/hands, and hold for 30 – 60 seconds.
Learning how to run properly can be a bit of a tedious process. It takes time and consistent effort to make these techniques into a habit – but once your body knows what to do, you’ll set yourself up to avoid injury and achieve maximum success over the years to come.