Posture and Form Tips for Runners

A board certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon by profession, Dr. Mahr Elder operates Novato Oral Surgery and Implantology in Novato, California. In his free time, Dr. Mahr Elder enjoys running and other athletic hobbies.

Good posture is essential for the runner to perform at his or her best. It begins with correct forward positioning of the head, as looking straight in front of the body helps to align the neck and back. The runner should also remember to lean slightly forward while keeping the shoulders low and the spine long.

The body should remain facing the direction of travel. Many runners make the mistake of twisting or swaying from side to side, which expends excess energy. A strong, upright torso also allows the runner to breathe freely and to lengthen the stride.

Each step should land with the feet directly underneath the body. If the foot hits the ground in front of the torso, the runner must expend excess energy to propel himself or herself forward. The knee should be flexed so that it can bend on impact and lift slightly with the next step.

The foot serves to push the body off the ground. Ideally, the step should land between the middle foot and heal, then roll through the ball to effect a strong spring-off. A slapping sound indicates insufficient roll of the foot.

Runners should also take care to keep the arms swinging gently and the hands in soft — but not clenched — fists. The arm should never cross the body but should remain at the sides between the lower chest and waist, with the elbows at approximately 90 degrees. The runner can drop his or her arms to release any built-up tension, which is counterproductive to optimal performance.

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