Guide to good running form

It’s a scary thought that I may be – percentile-wise, if not in absolute terms – more of an authority on running technique than in my field of academic study.

Well, running may be a less explored field than mathematics.  Just for you, I can distill the lessons of twenty years of running into about four bullets points.  Here, in roughly decreasing order of importance, is all you need to know to enjoy a lifetime of injury-free running:

  1. Run barefoot, on hard surfaces. Roads and sidewalks, not grass.  This will get you 80% of the way there.  “Barefoot” means “skin touching ground.”
  2. Don’t push off with your feet. With each step, just pull up your foot, using your hamstrings.  Pull, don’t push.  And do it ASAP – do not let your feet dally on the ground, nor straighten out far behind you.
  3. Keep your cadence above 180. Best to do this by shortening your stride, rather than by trying to move your feet faster.
  4. Your foot should land under you, not in front. This takes some doing – possible helping actions are to (a) keep your hips forward, without bowing your back, and (b) hold your arms further behind you than feels normal.  Getting the footstrike right produces a feeling of “running downhill.”  Conversely, the foot landing in front brakes you with every step.
  5. Bonus tip: Use the foam roller!

By now, you may be part curious, and part sceptical.  The following are great references on running technique:

Happy running!

Bonus question:  why do men’s shoes have heels, anyway?


8 Responses to “Guide to good running form”

  1. Vid Says:

    What’s a foam roller?

  2. Emily Says:

    And to think I spent so much money buying Dean’s books! I’m curious – do the bottom of your feet get calloused?

    • knightstango Says:

      No, people have commented on the softness of my feet, which may be due to the lack of friction against running shoes.

      I suspect that the underlying fascia is toughening up over time, though – and I also notice that stubbing my toe (at home) doesn’t hurt as much as it used to.

  3. Nephew Says:

    You big stud. How negatively do you feel about the Vibram-type footgloves? I am going to try my first run without them as a result of this post, so be aware that you are inspiration.

    • knightstango Says:

      I haven’t tried the Vibrams myself (they look interesting), but I’m told they’re the next best thing to running barefoot. Keep me posted!

      • Nephew Says:

        ran 1.5 miles without shoes and then walked the 1.5 back home because my feet hurt. hubris.

  4. knightstango Says:

    Well, first of all, good for you for getting started! 3 miles was ambitious for a first barefoot run, but your ambition will take you to great accomplishments in life, grasshopper.

    My other thought is that foot pain often results from “pushing off” with the foot – which we may do as a (mistaken) habit. Think of just lifting your foot off the ground using your hamstrings – back of your legs. Don’t push or toe off at all.

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