How to Correct Your Running Form

Coach Casey · July 30, 2017

Origin of Running

What is the proper running form? That’s the age-old question… and such a simple question doesn’t always have a simple answer. Before we ask what proper running form should be, we should ask the question, “What was the purpose for running, and where did it come from?”.

Long ago, running was for survival. Before it became a sport and enjoyable activity, I think we can all agree that Mr. Cave man/woman were not worried about their figure and went for leisurely jogs through the canyon. They ran with a purpose – either to hunt or avoid being hunted.

Running has evolved into an awesome form exercise that not only lets us reconnect with our primitive ancestors, but can also reduce stress, manage weight, and improve our overall health. So, why does proper form while running matter so much? The answer is more surprising than you would think.

Animal Run Form

When you watch an animal walk, they’re usually grounded by at least 1-2 paws at all times. However, when they run, they perform what we like to call “flight-phase”. This is the time at which all 4 paws are off the ground. They land their paws underneath their hips, then spring off of their hind legs and repeat the cycle. Cycle through each of the pictures below to get a representation of the various mechanics of the way dogs run.

Humans Running

So, what does the running form of a dog have to do with humans? Despite the fact that they run on four legs rather than two, they’re much better and more efficient runners than humans. Every move is calculated, decisive, and with made ultimate athleticism.

The goal is to increase your body’s compliance. When I say compliance, I mean your body’s ability to absorb shock more efficiently with each stride, putting less strain on your joints and skeletal system.

Running Form: Common Mistakes

A “casual jog” for many with improper form is actually just a really fast, uncomfortable walk. And let’s be real, for most people 5mph could easily be just a really fast walk. By not experiencing a flight phase, both feet being off the the ground at the same time, your foot lands stretched out in front of your hips, past your center of gravity and you land on your heel.

To correct this, there’s a few things that can be done, if and ONLY if we increase flight phase!

Running Form: Corrections

In order to increase your flight phase you will need to spring off your toes and bring those heels up higher in the back. As you get up to full running speed the extension of your stride should be backwards, not out ahead of you. Doing this alone will help fix a lot of your other form including:

  • Knee will pull forward -> allowing you the time to stop your foot from flying out in front.
  • Foot will pull back inward -> allowing your foot to land underneath your hips.
  • Landing on your toes -> Letting your ankle compress, then repeating the cycle.

Perfecting the Running Form

Now that we know what’s wrong, it’s time to use what you’ve learned and put it into action. Simply increasing flight phase while maintaining your cadence and location of your foot strike under your hips snowballs into everything else happening perfectly.

  1. Heels up high in the back
  2. Avoiding heel strike
  3. Landing his feet just slightly more underneath his hips
  4. Springing up off his toes to repeat the cycle

The Take Away

Whether you’re running a 15 min/mile pace, a 10 min/mile pace or even a 6 min/mile pace, this form is the form that should be utilized at all times. The faster you run, the harder you’ll need to push off to increase your flight phase. The slower you run, the less flight phase you’ll need. Either way, slow or fast, a flight phase MUST be utilized in order to perform optimally and to build your muscles in an optimal fashion. So, whether you’re hunting, being hunted, or just out for the casual jog, from here on out, every movement should be made decisively, with a purpose, and with ultimate athleticism.

Charge on!

Learn even more about how to maximize your running form for ultimate success by joining Charge Running! You’ll get running form advice and more from live, professional coaches.

Comments 0

Download Charge Running today!

Access unlimited LIVE and on-demand classes for just $20 a month when you subscribe annually! Includes a 7-day free trial.