Guest post by Dawn from Running at Dawn
Since the advent of the barefoot running craze, everyone from the elite track star to the first time 5K walk-jogger is worried about their running form. Is heel striking really bad for you? Should you be landing on your forefoot or mid-foot? What kind of shoes should you be wearing, if any at all?
For the most part, your natural running stride is going to be best for you. Our bodies are incredibly good at finding the most efficient way to perform any physical activity, including running. That said, there are a few small tweaks that everyone can try to get the most bang for their running buck. Use these tips to get your stride and form looking as graceful as a gazelle:
- Increase your cadence. One of the things most elite runners have in common is their cadence – approximately 90-100 steps per minute. The faster you can move your feet, the lighter your stride will be. You’ll spend more time in the air moving forward and less time on the ground. When you first make this change, you’ll most likely need to shorten your stride, but with some practice it will soon seem effortless.
- Keep your feet under you. When your feet hit the ground, make sure they’re underneath your body, not reaching out in front of you. This allows you to more quickly transition to the next step instead of spending time “puling” your body up to meet your foot. (Most people also find that this greatly reduces or eliminates their heel strike.)
- Push forward off your feet. As you transfer from one foot to the next, focus on pushing your body forward, not up. This will increase your speed by aiming more of your energy in the right direction. Otherwise the energy expended pushing your body up off the ground is just wasted against gravity. Aim for what the pros call “triple extension”: leg back behind you, straight knee and foot pointed downward.
The most important thing to remember with any of these changes is to make them slowly. Work on one thing at a time, ideally in small amounts or paired with your spring training. You can also join a running club and learn technique from other fellow runners. Set aside a few 60-90 second “strides” near the middle of your regular run where you focus on cadence, landing or takeoff. As your body learns the new motion, it will slowly become natural and you’ll be able to incorporate it into your entire run without even thinking about it. Be sure to master one aspect before moving on to the next: moving forward too quickly with any changes to your natural stride can greatly increase your risk for injury.
All that said, if you’re able to run as much as you want without pain or nagging, recurrent injuries? Your form is probably fine. If you really want to get faster, head to the track to work on your speed.
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Have you made efforts on enhancing your running form? Leave your comments below!