8 Tips to Improve Your Running Form Easily

While it’s true that there is no single perfect running form that fits everyone—after all, we’re all built differently—there are several key aspects you can focus on to improve your running form.

Improving your technique isn’t about achieving an idealized version of running; it’s about finding what works best for your unique body and stride.

By concentrating on a few fundamental areas, you can become a more efficient runner, make your runs feel easier, run faster, and decrease your risk of injury.

Is Heel Striking Really Bad?

Let’s start with the most common question I get from runners when we first start talking about running form: heel vs. mid or forefoot striking.

There’s a common belief in the running community that heel striking—where your heel hits the ground first when you run—is bad and should be avoided. However, the truth is more nuanced. The key concern is not whether you’re a heel striker but whether you’re overstriding. Overstriding happens when your foot lands well ahead of your center of gravity, which can lead to increased stress on your legs and a higher risk of injury.

Heel striking in itself is not inherently bad. In fact, many successful and injury-free runners are heel strikers. The impact of heel striking can be perfectly safe if done within the right context and with proper alignment, meaning your heel should land under your knee, not in front of it. This alignment ensures that the impact is absorbed more efficiently, reducing the strain on your legs and decreasing the risk of injury.

Later in this article, we’ll go into the specifics of how to avoid overstriding, one of the essential tips for enhancing your running form. By focusing on where your foot lands in relation to your body, rather than whether you land on your heel or forefoot, you can run more efficiently and safely.

woman, jogging, running

Why Focus on Improving Running Technique?

There are 4 main reasons why you need to improve your running form:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Proper form helps you run more economically, using your energy wisely. This efficiency means you can run longer distances or faster speeds without quickly getting exhausted. Essentially, good form can make your running efforts more effective, maximizing the output from your energy input.

  2. Injury Prevention: When you run with the correct form, you align your body in a way that reduces undue stress on your muscles, joints, and tendons. This alignment decreases the likelihood of common running-related injuries, allowing you to train consistently without being sidelined by avoidable issues.

  3. Enhanced Performance: By optimizing your form, you not only conserve energy but also improve your overall running performance. Proper technique can lead to better speed and stamina, helping you achieve your running goals, whether they’re related to distance, time, or general fitness.

  4. Longevity in Running: Good form contributes to sustainability in your running journey. By avoiding injuries and running more efficiently, you’re more likely to enjoy running and stick with it long-term, promoting better health and fitness over the years.

How to Improve Your Running Form

Improving your running form is more straightforward than you might think. Often, the mere act of becoming aware of your running mechanics and consciously focusing on areas of improvement can initiate positive changes.

Here’s how you can approach enhancing your running form:

  1. Self-Awareness: The first step is understanding what good running form looks like and then comparing it to your own. This awareness can come from reading about proper form, watching videos, or even observing other runners. Once you know what to aim for, you can start to identify specific areas where your form could use some improvement.

  2. Mindful Running: When you’re running, try to be mindful of your form. Think about the alignment of your body, the movement of your arms, the placement of your feet, and your posture. Just being conscious of these elements can lead to automatic adjustments as your body seeks to move more efficiently.

  3. Incremental Adjustments: You don’t need to overhaul your running form all at once. In fact, trying to change too much too quickly can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Instead, focus on one or two aspects at a time. For example, you might concentrate on keeping your posture upright or ensuring your feet land beneath your body rather than ahead of it.

  4. Regular Practice: Consistency is key to improving your running form. Focus on your chosen aspect of form during each run, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time. Over time, these focused periods will add up, and the improvements will become second nature.

Understanding what you need to improve and maintaining awareness of these aspects while you run can start to significantly enhance your form. These changes can lead to more efficient, enjoyable, and injury-free running.

Improving Your Running Form Without A Coach or Camera

Improving your running form doesn’t require fancy equipment or a professional coach. A keen awareness of your body’s movements and targeted adjustments can significantly enhance your technique. While you can make substantial progress through self-awareness and focused practice, using a simple tool like your phone to record your runs can offer invaluable insights.

When you have someone record you while running, even if it’s just with a smartphone, you gain a different perspective on your form. Watching the playback, you can observe aspects of your running style that are hard to feel or notice in real-time. This visual feedback allows you to pinpoint specific areas that need improvement, whether it’s your posture, stride length, or foot landing.

This process of recording and reviewing doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming. Occasional recordings can provide a snapshot of your progress and help you refine your technique over time.

Correct Running Form to Prevent Injury

Running the right way can help prevent injuries. Many common running injuries are due to poor form. By focusing on proper technique, you can keep yourself safe and enjoy running without the setback of injuries.

8 Tips for Proper Running Form

  1. Keep Hands at your Waist

  2. Ankle Under knee: Both Heel Striking and Forefoot

  3. Improve Your Running Form with Proper Arm Swing and Core Stability

  4. Relax Your Shoulders

  5. Maintain a Tall Running Posture

  6. Keep Your Arms at Your Sides

  7. Add Strength Training to Your Routine

  8. Don’t Bounce

  9. Improve your Running Cadence
Improve Your Running

Keep Hands at Your Waist

Keeping your hands at waist level is a simple yet effective way to improve your running form. This position helps maintain your body’s balance as you move, providing a stable center of gravity. It also prevents you from expending unnecessary energy. When your hands drift away from your waist, especially if they move upward toward your chest, your body has to work harder to maintain its balance and forward momentum.

Additionally, maintaining your hands at your waist encourages relaxation in your upper body. This relaxed state is crucial for efficient running because it prevents the buildup of tension in your shoulders and neck. When your upper body is relaxed, you can focus more on the efficiency of your leg movements, leading to a more effective and enjoyable run.

Ankle Under knee: Both Heel Striking and Forefoot

When your ankle aligns directly under your knee at the point of landing, it creates an optimal structure for absorbing the impact of your stride. This alignment is beneficial for both heel strikers and forefoot runners, as it distributes the force of impact more evenly across your leg, reducing the stress on any single joint or muscle.

This positioning also enhances your running efficiency. By landing with your ankle under your knee, you ensure that each stride is propelling you forward, not wasting energy. Over time, this can lead to improvements in your speed and endurance, as your running becomes more mechanically efficient.

Sometimes, increasing your running cadence, specially if it’s under 150 steps per minute, can help you fix this.

Improve Your Running Form with Proper Arm Swing and Core Stability

Arm swings are more than just a natural part of running; they play a crucial role in maintaining momentum and balance. Proper arm swing, where your arms move in coordination with your legs, helps propel you forward and maintains your rhythm. Keeping your arms swinging in a controlled manner can prevent unnecessary torso rotation, leading to better energy conservation.

Core stability is equally important in running. A strong, stable core keeps your posture upright and efficient, reducing the risk of fatigue and injury. When your core is engaged, it supports your spine, reducing the workload on your back and allowing your limbs to move more freely. This combination of proper arm swing and core stability can significantly improve your running form, making each run smoother and more productive.

Relax Your Shoulders

Relaxing your shoulders while running is crucial for maintaining overall body tension at an optimal level. Tense shoulders can lead to a chain reaction of stress throughout your body, affecting your running efficiency. By keeping your shoulders relaxed, you allow your arms to swing freely, which in turn helps maintain your rhythm and balance.

Moreover, relaxed shoulders contribute to better breathing while running. Tension in the upper body can restrict your lung capacity, making it harder to breathe deeply. With relaxed shoulders, your chest can expand more fully, improving oxygen intake and endurance.

Maintain a Tall Running Posture

A tall running posture, where you keep your body upright and aligned in a straight line, is key to efficient running. This posture enhances your lung capacity, allowing for better oxygen exchange, which is vital for endurance. It also reduces the strain on your back, as slumping or hunching can lead to discomfort or injury over time.

Maintaining this posture requires a conscious effort, especially as fatigue sets in during longer runs. However, the benefits are significant, including improved biomechanics, which can lead to a more efficient stride and reduced risk of injury.

Keep Your Arms at Your Sides

Keeping your arms at your sides while running helps minimize lateral body movement, which is crucial for energy conservation. Lateral movement can lead to wasted energy, as it doesn’t contribute to forward propulsion. By keeping your arms close to your body, you help maintain a streamlined form, which is more efficient for forward motion.

This position also helps maintain balance and rhythm in your stride. As your arms swing in a controlled manner at your sides, they counterbalance the movement of your legs, aiding in stability and pacing.

Add Strength Training to Your Routine

Incorporating strength training into your routine is a powerful way to enhance your running form. By strengthening the muscles used in running, you can improve your stability, efficiency, and power. Specifically, targeting your key core muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and quads can lead to significant improvements in your form.

When adding strength training to your routine, aim for exercises that mimic or complement the movements of running. Exercises like squats, lunges, planks, and stability exercises are particularly beneficial as they strengthen the muscles and joints involved in running, leading to better alignment and reduced risk of injury.

For optimal results, target three sets of 8 to 10 reps for each exercise. This rep range is effective for building strength and endurance without bulking up, which is ideal for runners. Consistency is key, so incorporate strength training into your routine 2-3 times per week. Over time, you’ll likely notice improvements in your running form, including better posture, stronger strides, and enhanced overall performance.

Don’t Bounce

Minimizing vertical movement, or bounce, while running, conserves energy that would otherwise be wasted in upward motion rather than propelling you forward. Reducing bounce is crucial for long-distance running, as it leads to greater efficiency over time, allowing you to maintain a consistent pace with less fatigue.

Furthermore, less bouncing reduces the impact on your joints, particularly your knees and hips, which can be susceptible to overuse injuries. By focusing on a smoother stride with minimal vertical movement, you protect your joints while enhancing your running

Five-Minute Proper Running Technique Fix

You can make a big difference in your running form with just a few minutes of focused effort. By concentrating on one or two of the tips above during each run, you’ll gradually build a better running form.

Proper running technique is a straightforward yet effective way to enhance your running experience. It’s not about making big changes overnight but about small, consistent improvements. By focusing on the tips we’ve shared, you can run more efficiently, enjoyably, and safely. Remember, the key is to be mindful of your form and make gradual adjustments. Happy running!

Diego Alcubierre, a passionate runner and coach, started his journey at 26 with a 10k time of 1:06:23 and has since slashed 30 minutes off his personal record. With five running and coaching certifications, Diego is committed to sharing his expertise and proven strategies to help runners of all levels enhance their performance, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of running. At Bannister, he simplifies complex training concepts, empowering you to achieve your running goals.