THERE ARE CLASSIC ELEMENTS OF GOOD RUNNING FORM to which many experts will refer when asked about this topic. Playmakers.com offers links to GoodFormRunning.com, which provides free graphics demonstrating running and walking form.
The 4 most commonly quoted elements are: 1) Run with tall posture, looking forward; 2) Lean forward at the ankles; 3) Land softly at mid-foot first, keeping strides short, cadence high; and 4) Hold arms at sides, shoulders relaxed, at an angle of 90 degrees.
The classic elements of good WALKING form are very similar, except that the number 3 advice is to LAND softly on the heel first, rolling to midfoot. As with runners, walkers are cautioned not to over-stride, but to take short steps, NOT longer strides.
Notice that the arm position is the same whether walking or running. It is not economical or helpful to let the arms hang slack and straight. Pulling the elbows back and more rapidly can help propel you forward. The faster the arms move the faster the legs move (I cannot find a specific reference that explains, but Earned Runs is currently working on arm swing as a Science Friday topic to further understand the mechanics).
This advice is fine for running or walking at one pace, in my opinion. What do runners and walkers do to speed up? Do the same thing but “faster”? The answer is partly to increase muscle strength and correct imbalances/asymmetries which will prevent maintaining proper form at higher speeds for longer runs or walks. That’s why good training plans incorporate strength, balance, and mobility work; to help you avoid side-side wobbling when moving forward is the goal.
However, the answer may not be that simple. Matt Fitzgerald wrote and updated a piece for Running.Competitor.com about running form that seems to throw out all the classic advice. Runners hoping to train for speed will find Fitzgerald’s take very helpful. In a nutshell (the full article is best) he says that two stride characteristics lead to the most economical (speedy) running: 1) slowing down (decelerating) as little as possible as the foot hits the ground and 2) spending as little time as possible in contact with the ground.
He explains research that demonstrated “the most economical runners slow down the least between strides and the least economical runners slow down the most”. The term for this stride characteristic is “sagittal plane accelerations”
Other research showed that “the less time a given runner’s foot spent in contact with the ground, the more economical-and faster- he was”. This stride characteristic is “ground contact time”.
Take shorter, more rapid steps, this expert seems to be saying. If you’re interested, read the article. This BLOG post hopes to introduce information that assists runners and walkers in gaining speed, not coaching.
Fitzgerald mentions the stride characteristics of Meb Keflezighi and there is a link embedded in the article to a video in which the marathon champion struts his stuff and reveals 3 tips.
Bottom line, there’s art and science and effort that goes into developing an economical (fast) running and walking form. The best method will prevent injury, too. Reading on the topic increase the chance that each of us will find advice that works, not hurts.
RUN AND WALK HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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