Running technique: the way you run matters

For some, running may seem pretty self-explanatory – put on your shoes, shut the door and off you go. But the wrong running technique and posture can have some serious effects for runners, including greatly increasing the chance of sports-related injuries.

That’s why – whether you’re an elite athlete or simply enjoy the occasional jog – it’s crucial to know how to run correctly, and how to tell if you aren’t.

We sat down with Kiri Price, an AUT Millennium trainer, to find out from an expert why running form is so important and discover some running tips that we can all use to improve our posture and form. Kiri is an experienced coach, personal trainer, swim teacher and deep water running instructor. A member of the NZ 100 Marathon Club, she has completed over 150 marathons!

Why running posture is so important

Your running technique impacts many elements of performance that you may not immediately realise. For the amateur runner, speed and endurance are obvious areas to work on, while running form and posture are often neglected. As well as reducing your risk of injury, the correct running form can have you running better and faster than ever before.

Learning how to maintain the correct posture, and making minor adjustments to alignment can make all the difference when it comes to running technique. Research indicates that the correct posture decreases the stress put on the body during running, meaning your movement is more efficient and you can run greater distances using less energy.

Better yet, Kiri tells us that mastering the correct running technique will make running easier and more enjoyable.

According to Kiri, proper posture is vital because it:

  • Allows runners to run more efficiently and economically
  • Increases lung capacity
  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Helps the functioning and fluidity of muscles, joints and ligaments during running
  • Increases your ability to run further or faster

“If you’ve ever watched elite runners in a marathon, not only are they amazing to watch, but they make running look effortless – and this is generally because they have great posture!”

The negative effects of bad posture

While the correct running form has ample benefits, bad posture can result in a number of negative consequences, both for health and for running performance.

“Running is a very repetitive activity with a high rate of loading,” Kiri tells us. “When you run with poor form or posture over a long distance or for a long time, you’re increasing your risk of injury greatly.”

Many common running-related injuries, such as ankle sprains, cramps and blisters, are caused by people using the wrong posture. While professional runners often incorporate form running techniques into their training, the majority of us wouldn’t consider it an integral part of our practice. But the right running style is crucial for all runners – whether you’re training for a marathon, or going for your weekly run.

Injuries that poor posture can contribute to, include:

  • Hip and lower limb injuries
  • Back pain
  • Runner’s knee
  • Overuse injuries
  • Limited lung functioning (running with rounded shoulders restricts lung capacity)
  • Low energy levels

“In a marathon, the longer you can keep your form, and the better your form, the better your performance will be!”

How to tell if you’ve got the wrong running technique

The good news is that you don’t have to wait for an injury to realise that you need to change your running form. If you do experience any pain or discomfort whilst running, this can be a cautionary sign that you need to check your posture.

Kiri says this is particularly important if you are experiencing recurrent injuries or if training sessions are feeling difficult and chore-like. “I always tell my runners to listen to what they can hear and tune in to how they are feeling, as that is their greatest feedback.”

Statistics indicate that 70% or more of runners will experience a running-related injury at some stage in their running career – Kiri believes there are steps that everyone can take to greatly reduce the risk. A substantial part of this is improving running form and posture.

Ways to improve your running form and posture

One of Kiri’s central running tips is to “run tall”, with a slight lean forward from the ankles – this means running at your full height with an upright posture and your gaze directly ahead. By doing this while you run, you keep your back comfortably straight and your body in alignment.

“I always tell my runners to run “tall” and “relaxed” so that they are more centred and balanced.”

Alignment is one of the most important things to get right whilst running. Correct body alignment looks like:

  • Head directly over shoulders
  • Head up and eyes looking forward, chin parallel to the ground
  • Shoulders low and relaxed
  • Back straight
  • Arms swinging forward and back at waist-height; not crossing the midline
  • Light mid-foot landing
  • Relaxed posture

Strengthening and stretching your body

Besides ensuring you’ve got the right running technique, activities and exercises off the track can have a positive impact too. Kiri believes strengthening exercises can have valuable and long-lasting benefits when it comes to running performance. She recommends:

  1. Running at a good cadence (number of steps per minute): optimal recommendation is around 180 steps per minute
  1. Incorporating regular strength work into training: focussing not only on strengthening the core, but the glutes, legs and upper body too
  1. Always remembering to stretch: regular post-run foam rolling and stretching is an essential part of improving posture, reducing the risk of injury and boosting performance

Taking time for rest and recovery

Finally, make sure you make time for some TLC too, particularly after intense training or completing a marathon. “Getting in the pool for a run and having regular sports massages have been my key post-marathon recovery strategies to iron out any tight spots and keep me running,” Kiri says.

Your running form affects every aspect of your performance, and is a fundamental factor in reducing the risk of injuries and improving your overall running technique. Begin incorporating these expert tips and techniques into your form, and you’ll be one step closer to improving your performance and reaching your personal best.

This post was brought to you by ASICS New Zealand. For training gear and sportswear designed for performance, and running shoes that will help you excel, check out their Womens Running Shoes and Mens Running Shoes.