Proper Running Form: 12 Tips To Be Efficient

Proper running form can always be improved upon. Runners are always looking for tips and strategies to get better at what they do. The below 12 tips are some of the ways I have incorporated to help improve my own running form.

proper running form

How To Improve Proper Form While Running?

  1. Do Strides. Strides help you to incorporate more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more of these you can recruit the higher chance you will run more economical and efficient.

Unfortunately, this physiological adaptation does not occur by running slow. You want the to teach the body to burn fat at race paces and conserve carbohydrate. Stride workouts are one of the best ways to do this along with tempo runs and your long run.

If your long run is not currently the hardest workout you do make it so. If you want to take your running to the next level don’t make every long run you do slow and easy.

Focus On Relaxation

2. Keep your shoulders low and relaxed

One of the first muscle groups to tighten up while running and especially racing is your shoulders. A lot of times we don’t even notice this occurring. The good thing is you can consciously remind yourself to lower them.

Proper running form is a tactic that has to continually be worked on. That being said, it takes time and patience in order to improve it.

If you have always breathed through your nose while you train and race it is quite difficult to try breathing through your mouth.

You want to always do what feels most comfortable for you. Every runner is different so make sure you focus on what you feel the strongest and most confident with.

If you feel your shoulders tightening up lower them and shake your arms out a bit. This will help you to relax and relive some of that tension during your training and/or race.

Stay Relaxed

3. Keep your facial muscles relaxed

Much like your shoulders, the muscles of the face are very easily strained especially when trying to run fast. Obviously, running easy is exactly that, easy. We know just about anyone can run easy for a few minutes.

That being said, running fast is an art form that takes extreme patience and persistence to perfect. You have already probably noticed that your facial muscles tighten up when doing harder workouts.

You can consciously remind yourself to relax while doing faster, up tempo-type workouts. This will help your whole body to relax and be efficient. Staying relaxed at or below goal 5K to marathon race pace takes a great deal of practice.

It is much easier to run fast with relaxed shoulders and facial muscles than if they were tense. The next time you feel either of these muscle groups tighten up consciously tell yourself to relax. You will notice a big difference in the way you feel while running at a higher heart rate and anaerobic effort by doing this.

What Is The Proper Form Of Running?

The proper form of running is keeping yourself together physiologically as well as psychologically while your competition falls apart.

That may sound harsh but at the end of the day when we race we want to get to the finish line before the guy or gal ahead of us. It is a competition for a reason. Now, that being said, everyone has different goals.

If you have a time goal in mind then you want to get to the finish line in the most economical and efficient way possible.

Duplicate Work Habits

The best middle to long distance runners are always focusing on improving their running economy. Duplicate what they do.

4. Focus on Form

If you are a pronator don’t try to be a supinator. You are what you are. Run the way you feel most comfortable first and foremost. Focus on your form at all times, stay as relaxed as you possibly can.

Study Runners Who Have Done What You Want To Do

The below picture was taken when I broke the 2:20:00 marathon barrier.

This is at the end of running 26.2 miles at a 5:19 per mile pace. Notice where my arms and hands are? Always keep them low rather than high. You’ll save valuable energy.

running form drills

Find a way to make what most of the runners around you see as painful as pleasure. Running well is a psychological game more than it is physical. Two runners can do the exact same type of training and yet one will run 5 minutes faster than the other.

Why such a difference? There is a mental aspect of training that is often bypassed and overlooked. We all have gotten very good at training physically.

Focusing on how you are running when in training or competition can help you stay focused.

There are various muscle groups that are all working in cohesion when we train and race. Keeping your muscles as relaxed as possible is the key to working on proper running form.

How to have proper running form takes persistent work and it is developed over time. It certainly isn’t something that is perfected over night. That being said, be patient with yourself and continue to work to improve your form.

Focus Ahead Of You

5. Keep your eyes looking forward

It is common for many runners to focus on the road about 20 meters in front of them. What you don’t want to do is be looking straight down or with your shoulders hunched over.

Feel yourself being strong when doing your track, road or trail running but always keep your eyes looking ahead of you. Who’s got time to be falling on their rear end? I know I don’t.

In fact, about a month ago I slipped and fail on some ice at the end of my drive way. I landed on my rib cage which took me out for a full month. Watch your footing at all times and your surroundings.

Strength Train

6. Do strength training.

Believe it or not this can be a great tactic to improve proper running form. A lot of runners neglect strength training.

One of my favorite strength training workouts it to get two 10 pound dumbbells. Find a wooden box or chair and step up one foot at a time holding the dumbbells to the side of your waste.

As you step up on the chair or box lift your opposite knee to your chest while focusing on your form. This mimics the motion we have as we run. More importantly, it helps you focus on balance and your core.

Focus On Your Mid-Section

7. Do Core Work

The muscles of the mid-section help to keep your body balanced and in control. The name of the game when it comes to running is to stay relaxed.

I observed the masses and I did the opposite – Holton Buggs, entrepreneur

Find anyone who is successful and you’ll notice a few things.

One, they make what looks difficult to many look very easy. Why is that? Repetition. Remember, every master was once a disaster.

You might want to write that one down. The first time I ran the mile in 1992 as a high school freshman I ran 5:30. I ran 26.2 miles at an an average of 5:19 per mile with no breaks in between in 2007.

Repetition and consistency, practicing daily your proper running form will help you get stronger. Core work will help keep your posture balanced both when running slow and fast. That being said, consistency and repetition makes for excellence.

Proper Running Form To Avoid Knee Pain

8. Keep Your Feet Forward

All runners have a specific way they prefer to run. That being said, you can run more efficient by keeping your feet moving forward. Keep your toes pointed forward.

Your biomechanics can be improved but all of this takes practice. You don’t want your feet pointed inward or outward. This is a quick path to injury if you are not careful. Be cognizant of how your feet are landing when you run.

Always run in such a way that you feel more comfortable. Some of the world’s best distance runners didn’t always have great running form. That being said, that doesn’t mean they weren’t always trying to improve it.

What Are You Doing AFTER The Workout?

Furthermore, proper running form is only one of many avenues to running a faster 5K to marathon. It is all the other hours of your day that count. For example, if you have the choice to run on softer services do so.

We have a lot of concrete and pavement here in North America. There are days I wish I lived and trained in Iten, Kenya where there are endless miles of dirt roads to choose from.

I lived and trained in Colorado springs, Colorado for about 7 years and spent a lot of time on soft, dirt trails. There is a lot of impact on the knees so if you have a choice pick trails or dirt roads.

Conduct Running Form Drills

Running drills can be a great way to routinely practice proper running form. A few examples of the running form drills I use when warming up are the following:

Side bounds – these are basically drills where you spread your feet outward to the left or to the right while bounding. You want to look straight ahead while doing them focusing on your form.

Front leg bounds – You want to focus on lifting your knees high up to your chest while pumping my arms . These bounds are no more than 100 meters in length and you can wait until you are fully recovered to start your next repetition.

Skipping exercises are also highly effective for improving your running form.

Meb Keflezighi and Scott Douglas over at Runnersworld really did a great job showing how these bounds and skipping exercises can help.

Keep Your Hands Low

9. Keep Your Hands Along Your Waistline

You arms should be bent at or around a 90 degree angle with your hands at waist level. It is very easy to keep your hands up near your chest especially when we get tired during training or in the race.

Furthermore, what you want to do is keep them low right alongside your waistline as if you were brushing your brushing your hips. It is very easy to want to hold your hands up near your chest as you get tired.

That being said, you waste a great deal of energy doing so. Make sure you keep your hands along your sides.

10. Keep Your Hands Relaxed

You want to be running as if you were holding an egg in each hand. Obviously, if you were doing so you wouldn’t want to place too much pressure on them.

This is the concept. Keep your hands relaxed and slightly opened but not too tense. You don’t need to run with your hands clinched as this, too, wastes valuable energy.

Does Running Improve Posture?

Yes. The more running you do with equal focus on strength training the better posture you will have. In addition, by practicing these fundamentals you will not fall apart in the race.

Running is more than just doing workouts. It is much like a puzzle. You have to fit all the pieces together in order to complete it. One missing piece and you’re out of it.

So, what are your habits throughout the day after your workout is complete will dictate your overall success.

11. Focus On Your Posture

You want to ensure your back is straight, arms are low, hands are along your waist line. Focus on keeping your arms and hands low. The first reaction for most runners when they get tired is to have their arms crossing over their chest.

Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it because we are so tired. That being said, this is a reaction we all can work on. Keep your posture erect and straight, your shoulders below your ears and do everything you can not to lean forward.

Also, monitor your breathing, take a few deep breaths as you are running. Keep your chest out and your eyes looking ahead about 20 meters down at the road, not straight down.

Mental Training

12. Visualize Perfect Running Form

Lastly, as I always remind my visitors, visualize success. Don’t just practice the physical aspects of improving proper running form. Visualize what proper running form is.

The psychological training is something many runners understandably neglect and forget about. Visualize seeing yourself running like the Kenyans.Have you ever looked at their face when they race?

They are completely relaxed. Their arms are low and their hands are lightly clasped, never clinched. Their knees lift is excellent. That being said, they make it look easy for a reason.

Closing Thoughts

The best runners, whether Kenyan, American, Australian or other parts of the world practice their form with hard workouts and strength training. Furthermore, they are doing bounding and skipping drills.

Proper running form takes practice. If you implement some of or all of the above mentioned 12 tips you will be setting yourself up for success.

Lastly, leave a comment below if you have a question about proper running form. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube Channel for the latest video updates.

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