Go for a run. It seems simple enough, but there’s a major difference between running with proper form and the mistakes that can make running more difficult or even harmful to your muscles and joints. Fortunately, professional runners and running coaches have clued us into the secrets to proper running form, which means you can run with less effort and a reduced chance of injury.
According to the pros, this is what proper running form looks like.
Proper Running Form
An effective running form involves the entire body — from head to toe. These are the body parts to always keep in mind when practicing your running form:
- Shoulders: The shoulders must be open when you run, which sounds easy, but can be difficult with the amount of time most people spend working on computers or hunched over at work. Pull your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together for increased endurance and speed.
- Head: The head is arguably the most critical body part when trying to achieve perfect running form. Keep your head up with your eyes looking directly in front of you. It’s common for the chin to drift up or down with fatigue, so focus on keeping your chin straight and your ears in line with the shoulders.
- Arms and hands: Your arms can increase or decrease your running speed. Keep them at a 90-degree angle with the hands moving from hip to chin. Pointing your thumbs toward the sky can help keep your arms in line.
- Torso and hips: Be aware of your spine, and always extend it instead of letting it scrunch down. Keeping the core tight will prevent you from bending the back forward or backward. Push the hips slightly forward so they lean into your run instead of keeping you directly upright.
- Legs: The knees, legs and feet are where much of your running power and endurance is born. Always have the knees in line with the middle of the feet, and keep them low, so energy is not wasted. Use your feet to push off the ground as opposed to simply lifting them, as this will propel you forward for more power and speed.
Common Running Mistakes
It’s easy to forget the ins and outs of running with proper form. What’s more, many typical running mistakes can slow you down, create more fatigue or cause injury. Heel striking, one of the most common running mistakes, is often caused by the hips being behind the feet. It’s not possible to push off your foot and gain speed or power when the foot is in front of the hips.
Another major mistake among runners is forgetting to stretch frequently. Mobility is essential to increasing stride frequency and length. Many runners keep their upper body tense — with the jaw, hands, elbows and shoulders tight — but it’s essential to keep the upper body relaxed to run faster and avoid injury.
Spara Can Help
Another option that can improve your performance is the Spara Podiatry Massage Tool. Designed to prevent and treat foot injury, this tool includes two marble balls and a track that allows runners to self-massage the feet before and after a run. Use a room-temperature ball for a warmup before running, and place the other ball in the freezer. This system should be used before a run as a warm-up to loosen the plantar fascia, and used after the run, before bed or a prolonged rest, to reduce pain and inflammation.
Practicing proper form, improving flexibility and avoiding a few common running mistakes can ensure you run faster and more efficiently. There’s nothing left to do but lace your shoes and hit the road.