Keys To Better Running Form

In running, as in all sport, we emphasize good form/proper mechanics. Efficiency, speed and injury avoidance are all related to form. But what does this mean and what is appropriate for you? Here, we’ll break down the components of running form and point out a few small adjustments you can make that add up to better performance. Whether you’re looking to achieve a new goal or simply make running more enjoyable, read on!


Proper posture we’re taught in everyday life is the same posture used for running.  When you are told to sit up straight, you should straighten up your spine, engage your core muscles. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep your head up tall. If I am working with you on running form, you will hear me tell you to “run tall”. This cue will help you get into an upright, non slouching posture, which is best for running.


When running, your elbows should be bent around a 90 degree angle. Your hands should be lightly clasped that when your arm swings, your hands should lightly brush the area between your lowest rib and your waistband. The action of the arm swing should be front to back. Any abnormal swinging (crossing of the body from side to side, elbows wide, or shoulders high) will create deviations in your running form.  Some cues to remember with arm swing is “hands relaxed”, “hands waistline to chest” and “hands do not cross the midline of the body”.


There are various theories on what part of the foot to land on when running.  Most will say that a mid to forefoot landing is best, but there are great runners who have a rearfoot or heel landing.  However, what matters most is that you land underneath your body, or as close a possible. Runners can overstride with a forefoot plant as well as a heel plant. A key point is to land the foot under your body and focus on pushing behind you in order to get a forward propulsion. Runners often think about reaching in front to go faster, but instead should think about pushing harder down and behind. This would cure their over-striding and improve efficiency.


Researchers have suggested a cadence, or stride frequency, of 180 steps per minute was optimal.  Depending on the runner, I would suggest anything from 170-190 steps per minute. Most runners, regardless of speed, have around this cadence. You can count your steps in one minute to get your cadence. If you find yourself outside of the 170-190 range, then you should try and adjust your stride rate or stride length. These both go together to create our speed. One tip to adjust your cadence is to run and listen to a metronome or music set to 180 beats per minute.


Running who have great rhythm have a certain flow to their stride.  They are relaxed and rhythmic regardless of their speed.  Remember to “Run tall. Run relaxed.” This simple cue will help adjust most form issues and result in a great running rhythm.

We all have our unique running form. We can spot many familiar runners from afar just by their stride. Few runners need a complete change of their stride.  Make sure to keep these 5 keys to good form since we all fall into bad habits easily. Remember: we’re here to help! At DPT, we have the tools and expertise to evaluate your running and help you reach your maximum potential. Call us to learn more!