A Quick Take on Running Form

REVIVE Sport & Spine, SLC UT

As our last article, stretching, went well, lets keep on the controversial topics and take a brief look at another that gets runners all up in a huff, because my technique/form is better than yours! SPOILER — it IS the best…for you!

When you talk about running form, there are many different camps: Newton Running, Chi, Good Form, Pose, etc., all preaching less injury, better efficiency and faster times. Who is right? What do we know about form anyway? Is the barefoot movement the right way to go or is maximal best?

Well….Yes.

Yes? What do you mean? What I mean is that yes, with all those things you could experience less injury, better efficiency, and faster running, but why?

If you choose any one of the above listed running camps and stick to the plan, have patience and work through the changes, you would come out a better runner most of the time. I am not saying you are not going to hit some injury set backs, but all of these plans focus on two things: (1) Drills that make you stronger and develop better neuromuscular control (2) Running, and lots of it! Both of those things will make you a better runner. All come with their pros and cons, but here is what we know (below) as well as an interesting look at the foot strike of the fastest distance runners on the planet.

Forefoot/Mid-foot Strike vs. Heel Strike Runners

Here are the simple facts to this debate. While one might find comfort, balance and efficiency with one and another person the other…it basically comes down to what works for you. If you spend months (and it takes MONTHS to make any kind of change to your form) and are met with pain and discomfort while running, is that drop of 5 seconds per mile worth it? I would personally rather enjoy my run! Now, the injuries associated with each as NEITHER are injury free.

FOREFOOT RUNNERS

  • Decreased ground reactive forces = less ankle/knee/hip joint pain.
  • Increased risk of foot stress fractures as the metatarsals experience more force. Beware of march fractures or even a neuroma as your feet adjust.
  • Increased tension taken on by the Achilles = Higher risk of Achilles tendon injuries or soleus/gastroc strain. Though that Achilles is designed to absorb that shock and provide some recoil, if you have never run this way, it must be slowly introduced to the drastic change in work load. (BEMS, 2013).

HEEL STRIKERS

  • The American College of Sports Medicine showed that Heel Strikers experience more ankle/knee/hip related injuries as well as a higher rate of stress fractures of the tibia and femur.
  • With the advent of shoes, especially the newly formed maximal movement, increased padding can decrease forces in heel strikers allowing a more comfortable run.

Both forms of running injuries can be prevented with adequate strength and mobility as well as allowing your body to rest, recover, and adapt to the stress that running provides. I have personally worked through a few running form programs and have not adopted one style, but parts from each through drills and exercises that ALLOW ME TO RUN MORE COMFORTABLE. That is what is most important because if you do not enjoy your run, it will feel like work….and who likes being at work? Below are some basic tips to help you run more comfortable. If that equals better efficiency and faster times, well good for you, I’m about enjoying my run and taking in the vast adventures around us. Happy Running!

Easy Tips to Run More Comfortably
  • Cadence: Higher cadence (steps per minute) has been shown to decrease ground reactive forces, shoot for 170–180 per minute.
  • Posture: Neutral spine with a slight lean forward (5-ish degrees) coming from the ankles, not the hips. Keep the hips tucked under you, remember ‘Without Limits’?…like that. Also, don’t let your head get ahead of you, chin tucked back with ears over shoulders and arms relaxed.
  • Foot Landing: Posture will help with this one as well. Simple goal here, your foot strike should land as centered under your body as possible
  • Rest & Recovery: You will not get stronger, adapt to the stresses of training or get faster if you do not take rest days and allow your body to recover. You recover when you sleep….ahh the dream life, just running and sleeping…if only.
  • Trails: Run on trails as much as possible. Not only does the challenging terrain develop strength and stability but the ground does not fight back like the road does. Trails will absorb a lot of the force you put into it with little kick back, making for a much more comfortable day after. More on trail running to come later but just thought I would throw this in last minute.