“It’s important to pay attention to mechanics, even if you’re not an elite or professional runner,” says Adidas high-performance coach Terrence Mahon.“We’re trying to do two things: One is not get hurt so that we can keep doing the thing we love to do, and two, we’re trying to do it with less effort and more efficiency.”
In other words, the better your form, the easier running feels—especially when you start to get fatigued. While everyone’s natural mechanics are different, here’s what you should be doing to ensure proper running form, from your head to your toes.
Gaze directly in front of you, keeping your chin parallel to the ground.
You want to have your ears in line with your shoulders.
Don’t tilt your chin up or down, which happens when people get tired.
Really, your eyes can look anywhere, but a focused gaze helps maintain proper posture, which keeps your neck in proper alignment with your spine.
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.
Ideally, your shoulders are moving independently of your torso and opposite of one another, in that X pattern. As the run goes on, it is common to get tight and tense in your shoulder area, almost like you're shrugging. It's important to stay relaxed. Shake out your arms, shrug your shoulders, and focus on loosening up, especially as you get fatigued.
The way you move your arms can help you move faster or slow you down. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle. Your palms or fists move from chin to hip. That’s going to help you propel your body forward. Keep your elbows close to your sides.
If your elbows point outwards, that means your arms are crossing your body, which actually slows you down—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 imagining an invisible line that runs down the center of your body—don't let your hands cross over that line.
Don’t forget to keep your hands relaxed. Pretend you have a potato chip between your index finger or your middle finger and your thumb so that your hands are really relaxed.
Forward lean should come from the ankle, NOT the hip.
Try leaning forward until you feel like you're about to fall down and then pick up your knee and start running.
When you’re running, you want lean slightly into the run versus running completely upright.
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 really want to focus of keeping that knee directly in front of your hips versus turning in or bowing out.
Everyone’s stride and gait 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 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.
There’s no right or wrong way for your feet to hit the ground, as long as you’re actually using them to push off (instead of just lifting them). 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 or striking with your heel are both more likely to set you up for injury. If that’s how you run naturally, though, rather than focusing on changing your stride, talk to an expert about getting into a proper shoe—maybe one with more cushioning—that will help you stay injury-free. Everyone's natural footstrikeand gait is different, so you want to make sure you’re optimizing yours best for your body.
What About Hills?
When the grade of the road change, so will your form. On an uphill, you’ll want to press your ankles forward to give yourself more power and help you avoid hunching over. Shortening your stride and running more on your toes will also help make it feel easier. Lifting your knees higher and pumping your arms a little bit more will make it so your legs aren’t doing all the work. Set your gaze six to 10 feet ahead. It makes your body feel like you're more on a flat surface than if you were looking to the top of the hill and realizing how much farther you have to go.
For any type of walking:
The following rules will help you maintain good form.
Stand tall. Extend your spine as if you were being lifted from the crown of your head. Place your thumbs on your lower ribs and your fingertips on your hips. As you stand up tall, notice how the distance in between increases. Try to maintain this elongation as you walk.
Eyes up. If you're looking down at your feet, you're putting unnecessary stress on your upper back and neck. Bring your gaze out about 10 to 20 feet in front of you.
Shoulders back, down, and relaxed. Roll your shoulders up, back, and then down. This is where your shoulders should be as you walk—not pulled up toward your ears. Think about keeping your shoulders away from your ears to reduce upper-body tension and allow for a freer arm swing.
Swing from your shoulders. Let your arms swing freely from your shoulders, not your elbows. Swing your arms forward and back, like a pendulum. Don't bring them across your body or let them go higher than your chest.
Maintain a neutral pelvis. Keep your abs tight, but don't tuck your tailbone under or stick your belly out and overarch your back.
Step lightly. You should be rolling from heel to toe as you stride, not landing flat-footed with a thud. And don't reach your leg far out in front of you. That increases impact on your joints and actually slows you down. You want a smooth, quiet stride—no bouncing or plodding along—to reduce your risk of injury.
Proper walking technique
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A fitness stride requires good posture and purposeful movements..