Good Form Running

Tuesday night I attended a Good Form Running clinic at the local running store. Since getting injured, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and paying a lot more attention to my running form than I had before. I’ve been particularly interested in ChiRunning, which specifically focuses on more natural movements that are meant to reduce injury. For as much as I’ve read about ChiRunning so far, it appears that Good Form Running has a lot of similarities.

4 Principles of Good Form Running

In particular, the 4 basic principles of Good Form Running are very similar to what I’ve read about ChiRunning, as well as other places writing about “proper running form”.

  1. Posture – you should be standing tall, toes pointed straight forward, running with your head up and keeping your eyes looking ahead of you.
  2. Foot Strike – many runners have a tendency to heal strike, which sends a shock up your leg, and actually acts as a brake when your foot comes down, forcing you to work that much harder to propel yourself forward. Instead, you should aim for a mid-foot strike, using the arch of your foot, as well as your knee, as natural shock absorbers.
  3. Cadence – you should aim to take more, smaller strides to reduce the amount of time your foot is in contact with the ground. This will cause you to run light, and avoid your feet pounding the ground. The ideal cadence (the number of times your feet contact the ground) is around 180 per minute. If you’re taller and have longer legs (as I do), this number may be a little lower, around 170-175.
  4. Lean – a slight forward lean will allow you to use gravity to your advantage, where you’re essentially constantly catching yourself from falling. Basically, you’re letting gravity do a lot of the work of propelling you forward. You should be leaning from the ankles, not bending at the waist. Imagine yourself standing, and starting to lean forward from your ankles. There will be a moment when your center of gravity shifts forward, and you have to put your foot out to catch yourself – that’s when you start running, and the position you should stay in. You should be constantly catching yourself from falling.

Of these 4 principles, if you only really paid attention to 1, it should be cadence. Keeping your cadence up will more-or-less force the others. If you’re taking that many steps, it’s pretty much going to force you to run nice and upright with a good posture, a forward lean, and your feet landing underneath you with a nice mid-foot strike.

Overall I really enjoyed the clinic. Since I’ve been reading up on a lot of this the past few weeks, it wasn’t really anything that I hadn’t already seen elsewhere, but it was good to have it reinforced in a more personal setting, rather than just reading it on the interwebs.

10 thoughts on “Good Form Running

  1. Sounds like a very good thing you went to. Like you said, it’s not anything all that new, but it’s great to hear it in person. I’ve been focusing so much on a shorter stride and leaning and avoiding “reaching” with my feet, and I feel like it’s helped me so much with not only my injury, but also with how I feel. I’ve also noticed that my running is considerably quieter now because of that.

  2. Being quieter is one of the things he stressed – if you can really hear your feet slapping the ground, you’re doing something wrong.

  3. Good info to know. I am definitely a heel striker; gotta work on that.

  4. Ditto on the heel strike. Could be a reason for my achilles injury.

  5. Did they do an analysis? Also, does that mean my cadence should be more like 190?

  6. I think it’s more like 200 for hobbits 🙂

    No they didn’t do a full analysis. They just took some quick before/after video of each of us that we watched at the end.

  7. I got a Chi Running video last year and it immediately increased my pace and made my running more efficient. I need to watch the video a few more times and practice more. I also got a Evolutionl Running video which is very much the same and also has exercises to practice. They all seem to be very similar. I can tell the difference when I run quietly on the treadmill next to someone pounding away.

  8. Great post Brandon. I think there is a real demand for a simple set of steps to follow when working on running form. You’re right, the main elements of the form-correcting methods of Chi Running, the Pose Method and Evolution Running, cross over and are very similar in their approach to improving efficiency.
    ‘Good Form Running’ is a great way of simplifying the main points. None of these approaches are new but are being used more and more as runners understand the benefits of reducing injuries and improving efficiency through better form.
    I agree also that increasing cadence and shortening your stride is probably the most important initial change to make. The other principles follow on nicely from that.
    I recently came up with my own take on improving running form, summarising it into the ‘SOFT’ principles – a set of simple, easy to remember steps, which tie in with the ‘Good Running Form’ tips.
    Read more about ‘SOFT Running’ here : http://www.experiencerunning.net/the-form-guide-soft-running

  9. Dude I’ve been on my soapbox about this for a while. I went through a massive change in form about a year ago and have had zero problems with many 25 mile weeks.

  10. I have just discovered the virtues of midfoot running. This is a great and helpful summary. I am even looking into Newton running shoes- they are supposedly great for encouraging midfoot form. I am hoping midfoot form will help me avoid shin splints. Time will tell.

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