How To Master Your Stride As A Runner
Written By: SportsShoes
Talk to any seasoned runner and it’s more than likely that they’ll have spent some time on the injury bench at some point in their running career. The truth is, running is a high impact sport and that’s why good running form matters and is just as important as choosing the right running shoe. An efficient running technique reduces the stress and strains on the body not only lessening our risk of injury, but also helping to improve performance, making for stronger, faster, more powerful running. Here’s how to master your running form.
DON’T OVER STRIDE
One of the most common mistakes made by runners is lengthening their stride when trying to up the pace. The result is the foot landing too far in front of the knee, creating a braking action and a slower overall leg turnover. The knee is straighter, reducing its ability to absorb shock and the heel strike becomes more aggressive. This in turn increases stress and impact on the body, affecting the knee, hip and back as the body’s ability to absorb shock is compromised. As a result, over striding frequently causes injury as well as actually slowing down rather than increasing the runner’s pace.
In fact, although it might feel counter intuitive, slightly shortening the stride and focusing on increasing leg turnover (cadence) is a more effective way to boost speed and efficiency. Studies suggest this also helps reduce load on the knees and hips and encourages more of a midfoot landing, with the foot landing under the body (and centre of gravity) alongside a more flexed knee – reducing the risk of injury.
The ideal cadence for runners is between 170 and 180 strides per minute – to work yours out, count how many times your right leg hits the ground over a minute and multiply it by two. You can then work on firing up your turnover rate by gradually increasing the number of steps per minute over drills and interval sessions and building up.
Good posture and alignment are crucial to an effective running technique, helping to boost running performance and efficiency and reduce the risk of injury. Poor posture can put pressure on the joints as well as hindering lung capacity.
Runners should aim to “run tall” to engage the deep postural muscles and their centre of gravity. Keep the spine straight and the head up and focused ahead, leaning slightly forwards but maintaining the length of the spine. Don’t look down – this puts stress on the neck and shoulders – your ears should align with your shoulders.
Your shoulders should also be square and pulled back to help open up the chest and ribcage. This allows the lungs to expand and optimises their capacity. Shoulders, hips and ankles should all be in alignment and the weight even over both feet, with no slouching which compromises lung functionality - as well as putting strain on the mid and lower back.
RELAX AND MOVE FREELY
It’s important to avoid stiffness and tension which compromises your running form and prevents fluid movement. Many runners commonly tense their fists into a ball – by relaxing your hands you can help prevent tension moving up through the neck and shoulders. Aim to run with the hands in a loose fist position with the arms swinging freely. Your elbows should be at your sides and bent at around a 90 degree angle, in a back to back (not across the midline of the body) motion. If you find yourself tensing up, shake out your arms and shrug your shoulders to loosen off some of that tension – all the more important in the later stages of your run when you’re tired, your form is suffering and an injury becomes more likely.