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WHAT IS CORRECT RUNNING FORM?

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Tid Bits of Info

  • Forefoot striking appears to reduce the frequency of lower extremity injuries due to increased muscle action upon landing.
  • Running outside vs a treadmill at the same pace, the outside runner will burn more calories due air resistance.
  • The average man has enough energy stored in his fat to run continuously for 3 days.
  • Runners come in all ages, the oldest marathon finisher is 101 years old and the youngest has completed 48 marathons before his 5th birthday.
  • If you suffer an injury from running, seek the advice and treatment from a Physical Therapist.

People of all ages enjoy running. This popular cardiovascular exercise not only improves health, it can reduce stress, make you more confident, and even help overcome depression. If you watch people run, you’ll notice different forms that runners use when they are “on a run.” Healthcare professionals are often asked, “What is the best or perfect form to use when running?” There might not be a perfect answer, but there are several factors to consider prior to helping someone choose a particular running form.

A person that wants to run or change the current running form should consider the following questions:

  • Have I avoided injuries?
  • How fast do I want or need to run?
  • What distance do I want to complete when I run?

The answers to these questions help to determine how the patient will stride and land. Shorter races or runs and faster speeds require a faster step rate, aggressive arm swing, higher leg lift and land on the forefoot. Long distance running requires more efficiency in the running form to preserve energy, so the runner has fewer strides, less aggressive arm swing, lower leg swing and lands almost anywhere on the foot (research supports landing on the mid to forefoot to avoid lower extremities injuries).

Regardless of the distance to be covered, the proper running form should have a balanced, controlled landing, and step rate that correlates optimally for the distance to be covered, and enough core and lower extremity strength to propel the body forward and avoid an injury. When assessing someone’s running gait or form the healthcare professional will look at 6 key body areas.

Head: Look straight ahead and not downward towards the feet which helps to put your entire spine in the proper posture

Shoulders: Relaxed and held back in proper posture (should align with the ears but not shrugged up to them)

Arms: Elbows should be flexed to a 90 degree angle and the arms should swing at the shoulders in a straight line and not across the torso

16275492 - passing the relay baton

Torso: Stand tall and erect. This enables the runner to breathe more easily. When attempting to run fast a slight lean forward at the waist will aide in the proper form for “sprinting”

Legs: The stride should be efficient for a particular form. Straight leg lift at the hip, landing balanced and the legs are under the torso

Ankles/Feet: Landing softly will help to avoid injuries. Landing on the forefoot has proven to reduce lower extremity injuries but the legs have to get used to this type of landing

Injuries do occur and “runners” are always anxious to return to running as soon as possible. If you have a running injury, seek the advice and treatment from a Physical Therapist that specializes in the treatment of orthopaedic injuries. These licensed healthcare professionals can help to treat the injury and correct or change the injured person’s running form. These visits can take place without seeing a doctor, but it would be a good idea to see if the insurance policy requires that a referral from their general practitioner before going to a Physical Therapist.

There is no perfect form for most runners, but there are several key areas of the body to assess and questions that need to be answered prior to making a decision as to how to have someone run. Being efficient and using the proper form can make the run more enjoyable and help to prevent an injury.