Running form is critical when it comes to running efficiently, injury-free, and fast (though you can also run slowly with good form, if that's your style).  Some people say that running is simply putting one foot in front of the other... repeatedly.  This is a touch oversimplified.  In truth, good running is like yoga: there is constant minute modification to keep you well-aligned and to maintain proper position in space based on the surface over which you are running.  The most important elements are:

1) Proper body alignment - tucked tailbone, head extended from your fontanelle (this will cause your chin to drop slightly and your neck and upper back to feel more relaxed), and knees slightly bent.  You cannot run with proper form if you body is not aligned correctly. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RUN WITH A MIDFOOT STRIKE (landing on the balls of your feet) WITHOUT FIRST GETTING YOUR BODY ALIGNED.

2) Landing on the balls of your feet - landing on the balls of your feet allows you to use the two major spring-like structures in your foot and lower leg (arch and achilles tendon) to attenuate the ground reaction forces that would otherwise go directly into your knee and hip, leading to damage. When you load your arch and achilles (they take approximately 50% of the force of your landing with a proper foot strike), those forces go directly into your next stride, whereas they are predominantly lost if you land on your heel. To get the feeling of landing on the balls of your feet, jump rope; to understand why heel-striking has no part in good running form, try jumping rope with a heel strike.

3) Bend your arms to 90° - In the mid-90s there was a trend going around where people were told to run with their arms hanging almost straight to their sides.  The idea was that if you weren't holding your arms up, you would use less energy.  Whoever came up with this idea clearly did poorly in Physics 101.  The arms and legs should be considered as pendulums when running.  Considering the equation for angular frequency (angular frequency = √(gravity/Length)), if your arms are long and straight, it takes X amount of time for them to swing from back to front or front to back.  When their length is halved, it takes 1/4 * X to move them.  Since your speed comes from your cadence multiplied by your stride length, shorter arms are obviously much preferred to longer arms.  Bend them to ninety degrees at the elbows.

4) Start with granny strides - When you first start running with proper form, shorten your strides to make sure you're actually landing on the balls of your feet.  As you get stronger, your stride length will increase and your speed will follow since speed comes from your cadence multiplied by your stride length.  Unfortunately, if you don't shorten your strides to start with or you increase your stride-length too rapidly, you'll almost certainly get injured.  Be smart and running will be a lot more fun for a lot longer.

5) Bend at the ankles - To move forward, all you need to do is bend at the ankles and start running.  You'll fundamentally be standing up completely straight, with your body aligned, but you'll be bent at the ankles so that when you push off, the force of you stride is directed forward and not up.

Here are some clips to help you better understand what I'm talking about.  Actual videos of a correct foot-strike can be found at the end, with videos talking about body alignment at the beginning since you can't change your foot-strike without first changing your body alignment.

FHR holds free form clinics some Saturdays (these are posted on the Forest Hills Runners Facebook Page and Group in advance) and at JP Center Yoga the first Sunday of the Month.  and Owen can be contacted directly for one-on-one running clinics, as well.

Instructional Videos

  1. Dathan Ritzenhein's Stride - A short New Yorker article with video analysis of Ritzenhein's form, with a discussion of his form in relation to Bekele's to show how critical form is to function.
  2. Good Form Running with Grant Robinson
  3. Lee Saxby Explains Running Form
  4. Running Drills with Sara Hall

Examples of Good Running Form

  1. 1500 Olympic Running Form
  2. Mutai and Mosop in Slow Motion
  3. Adolescent Kenyan Running Barefoot
  4. Boston Marathon 2011 – Davila in slow motion
  5. Elite Kenyan Running barefoot
  6. Elite Kenyan Running in Shoes
  7. Sammy Wanjiru – Slow motion