Running technique isn’t something that most people think about. Much like walking and swimming, you simply run when necessary for as long as necessary without necessarily dwelling on the details, such as how well you do it. After all, you’ve been running for nearly your entire life, and even if practice doesn’t make perfect, it certainly makes good enough.
Of course, the first step towards perfecting your form is abandoning any preconception of perfection. “There is no one right way to run,” says Janet Hamilton, CSCS, founder of Running Strong Professional Coaching in Atlanta. “We’re all born to run, just like all dogs are born to run, and some people are greyhounds and others are basset hounds.”
In short, everyone has their own distinct biomechanics, as well as an ideal stride that’s as unique as their signature. “You run the way you do because of a complex interaction of anatomical structure, strength, flexibility, terrain, speed, and even fatigue status,” says Hamilton. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your biomechanics more efficient and your stride more effective—and doing so is well worth your effort.
“Running economy is a key element of long-distance running success,” says Hamilton. “As running economy improves, race times improve.”
More important, sharpening your running form can reduce your odds of becoming one of the 37 to 56 percent of runners who suffer sport-related injuries each year. “Improper form places a lot of added stress on joints—especially the ankles, knees, and hips—which can lead to chronic injuries,” says Justin Freyermuth, CSCS, owner of NoCo Endurance Center in Colorado.
That’s all the more reason to follow the form tips below—but not all at once. Overthinking how you run can be just as detrimental as not thinking about it enough. “It can lead to poor running economy because your motions won’t be fluid,” says Hamilton. So focus on one or two tips at at time, and be patient—even if you’re a basset hound, you might soon find yourself keeping up with the greyhounds.