How to optimize your run technique
Running is a very repetitive movement, you take approximately 1000 steps every kilometer. Every time you hit the ground a force of 2-6x your body weight is put on your body. So, in order run your best and avoid injury, it is very important that each of those steps be as efficient as possible.
When running technique is discussed, we often talk about how the foot is contacting the ground (heel strike, midfoot strike, forefoot strike) BUT what is more important is where the foot is hitting the ground in relation to your body. It is not the heel striking that is bad, it is the over striding (landing with your foot out in front of you) that you want to avoid. Ideally, we are looking for a vertical shin angle at ground contact, basically the foot landing underneath your center of mass. See videos below to make this more obvious.
Wrong running motion
Good running motion
So how the heck do you do that?
Basically, you want to think of running as a progression of marching as opposed to walking. Walking is a pendulum movement of the legs whereas running is more of a piston action of the legs. That piston movement is going to allow you to land with the vertical shin angle which is more efficient and advantageous from a performance and injury prevention standpoint.
Putting it into action:
If you are an experienced runner and have done run drills in the past, here is a big secret no one likely told you🡪 the reason you are doing the drills is because you should run in that marching movement!
If you are new to running. Try some marching before you run 4-6x 20m thinking about the piston movement of your foot.
Then when you are out on a run practice the piston motion for 30s every kilometer, very deliberately.
*Please note, it is very important you use these external cues in order to actually make change (notice how I did not say “knees up”)
If you think you are a heel striker, do not try to over-correct and begin forefoot striking. I see this often in clinic. It is important for the heel to contact the ground during running because it allows your lower leg to act as a spring (imagine trying to spring off of something that is already sprung, this is what forefoot striking is like). Additionally, getting the heel on the ground is what allows the posterior chain to fire (you know those big muscles, like your hamstrings and glutes to help you move forward).
Still need some help?
I highly recommend getting a gait analysis so you can better understand what you are doing, in order to make the right changes to improve your running. Check out therunnersacademy.com and come see me if you are interested!
*Disclaimer: like anything with running you do not want to do too much too soon so do not go try to do this for a prolonged period, rather we typically suggest practicing for up to 1min/km.