What is proper running form?

by Adam Stuhlfaut, Director of Running

One question customers often ask us during our running shoe fittings is: “What is the proper running form?”  OR “What is the correct way to run?”  A lot of science and popular media in recent years have focused on this idea.  In 2009, the book Born to Run was published and all the science/pop culture was focused on “minimalism” and a “natural running” gait that consisted of a midfoot strike rather than the heel strike that was taught during the jogging boom of the 1970’s.  The devotes of “natural running” argued that a heel strike was a modern construct that lead to both an increase of particular injuries, like stress fractures, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and those injuries lead to running shoes be built for the “wrong” type of running.

Since the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, many training programs have tried to capitalize on the market of “gait retraining” to assist runners with learning this new science of the midfoot strike.  Some, like Chi Running, attempt to combine running with meditation for the near religious runner.  Good Form Running, which was born out of Michigan, is more working class and focus on the nuts and bolts of running. Pose Method, which seems to have quite a following in CrossFit, is marketing an appeal seemingly to the liking of the “non-runner”.  Regardless of the marketing or delivery, when it comes to changing the gait, they all have four teaching points in common:

  • Good posture – Ears up, hips forward
  • Forward lean – Whole body, NOT from the waist
  • Focus on cadence – Shorter strides and 180 steps per minute
  • Mid-foot strike – Not the heel and not the toes, think whole feet!

At SHOES-n-FEET, our answer to the question comes with an “it depends.”  If a runner is happy, healthy and run generally injury free, don’t change anything.  Plenty runners, both elite and recreational, have unorthodox running gaits that work for them individually.  If a runner is having injury issues, we do think there is a benefit to looking into gait retraining.  We recommend to look into these three schools of thought.  Each has instructor training programs and you might find an instructor who works nearby you: 

Or come into the store and one of our experts can assist you by taking you though a free video gait analysis and talk to you about elements of your form you can work on.  Finally, don’t forget that your feet and legs do not work independently from the other parts of your body.  One of our favorite coaches of elite athletes, Coach Bob Sevene, said, “The arms tell the legs how to move. If the arms are weak, everything caves in.” Make sure that any gait retraining comes with a healthy dose of functional fitness.  Working on your core muscles will help you make the most out of your running whether you are retraining your gait or not. 

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