Running Form: How to Correct the Most Common Mistakes

There's a right way to run, one that maximizes performance while reducing the risk of injury. Running form is a vital part of your workout regimen.
Running Form: How to Correct the Most Common Mistakes

Last update: 05 July, 2018

Running is one of the very first things we learn how to do. It comes soon after learning to walk and, in many cases, talk. Nevertheless, despite the fact that it is something we do almost every day and as a part of many athletic activities, proper running form is still something that eludes some of us.

Every sport has its own technique. Soccer players need to know how to kick, basketball players need to know how to shoot, and tennis players need to know how to wield a racket. The same is true of runners. Have you ever wondered if you have good running form? Read the following tips and assess whether you are running the right way.

How to know if you have good running form

There are a few parameters to keep in mind when evaluating your running technique. These include your step, your arm movements, your posture, and your breathing. Let us take a look at some of the most common mistakes when it comes to these elements:

An improper step

Woman running on beach

The best step technique involves touching the ground with the midfoot or even your toes. If you step down on your heels, the only thing you will accomplish is hindering your pace and fluidity of movement.

How do you avoid this? The first step is awareness. Many runners practice barefoot on a soft surface (like grass) to reinforce this technique.

Meanwhile, you should also find the ideal stride based on the length of your legs. You will find that the more you lengthen each step, the more you will fall on your heels. In this sense, shortening the time your foot spends in contact with the ground will reduce how much energy you consume with each step.

Incorrect arm movement

Your arm movements are an important part of harmonizing your overall form and creating balance. However, if done incorrectly, it can lead to consuming energy in a way that is counterproductive to running efficiently.

Here is what not to do in terms of arm movement:

  • Avoid excessive lateral rotation. The arm should not come above the midpoint of the torso.
  • Do not keep your arms and shoulders rigid while running.
  • Do not create too much separation between your body and elbows.
  • Make sure not to extend your arms more than 90 degrees.

Poor body posture

Your body’s positioning is essential to achieving proper balance, avoiding wasted energy, and improving endurance. To run correctly, the first thing is to keep your back straight and maintain a certain amount of tension in your abs. This way, your core will remain stable.

Woman running toward sunset

As for the hips, the best technique is to keep your pelvis vertical while you run. Pushing the torso too far forward, (often due to impatience or the anxiety of reaching your goal) is also undesirable.

In addition, your head should remain straight, kept in alignment with the torso and the pelvis. This is an exceedingly common mistake among runners: looking at the ground while you run. Besides compromising your posture, it also affects your breathing. Your eyes should be looking at the ground, of course, but at a minimum distance of ten meters ahead of you.

Finally, we reiterate the importance of a controlled, measured stride. If it is too long, in addition to the aforementioned foot support issues, you run the risk of having your foot fall in front of the hip. Ideally, you want the foot to fall under the hip.

Breathing: a key factor

Once you have made sure you are running in the right position, you should also take a look at your breathing. This is a key factor for runners, since it directly affects endurance and performance.

Although we are taught from a young age to inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, this is not enough for athletes, as they require more oxygen. It is recommended that athletes inhale through the nose and mouth, and exhale through the nose.

Woman running

Meanwhile, your breathing frequency will have a considerable effect on your pace and ability. We suggest that you inhale every 3 or 4 seconds, and that you exhale every 3 seconds. As a result, your breathing will always be moderate and supply you with the oxygen that you need.

Ultimately, you need to remember that breathing is connected to your posture. If you exhibit proper running form, you will also improve your aerobic capacity.

With all of these tips in mind, you are ready to start practicing. You can evaluating whether you have proper running form, and take advantage of all the benefits that it offers. All these movements can be learned, which is why practice and focus will allow it to become second nature over time.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.