Fast Fixes For Fabulous Form
By Rick Morris
There are a lot of components that make up efficient running form. Foot strike, cadence, stride length, posture, body lean, foot position, hip position, knee lift, heel kick, muscle elasticity … it just goes on and on. Many athletes spend years on tweaking their stride. Despite all of those components there are a few easy fixes that you can put in place that will quickly get your stride in fabulous form. By the way, there’s a reason for all the “F’s” in the title and body of this article. All three of these fixes begin with the letter “F” – not for fail but for fabulous form. Read on for some valuable running form tips.
One of the most common form flaws is over striding. While those long loping stride may seem, at first glance, to be an efficient way to run it is actually counterproductive. Excessively long strides result in heel striking and the dreaded “braking effect” that slows you down and makes running more difficult. Quicker, more compact strides with a foot strike directly under your center of gravity are much more efficient. Try for a cadence of between 90 and 95 full strides or 180 to 190 steps per minute. A cadence at that level will encourage proper foot strike under your center of gravity as well as take full advantage of your muscle elasticity.
Nope, I don’t mean you should have flat feet, I mean your foot strike should be neutral or flat footed rather than heel or toe first. A heel first foot strike causes you to slow down due to a braking effect and also causes excessive stress in your feet, ankles, knees, hip and lower back. A toes first foot strike absorbs some of the all important elastic energy you build up during your running stride. A neutral, more flat footed or ball of foot first touchdown uses the majority of the elastic energy built up in your calf muscles, creates a more economical, compact stride and encourages a fast, efficient cadence.
Fluid Flow and Flick
An efficient running stride has very little vertical oscillation. All of your energy should flow smoothly forward. A good way to encourage that smoothly efficient forward flow is to incorporate a fluid and effortless paw back and heel flick. The paw back should begin by quickly “picking up” your foot and flicking your heel up behind your body – almost like trying to kick yourself in the butt. The flow and flick will further eliminate any braking effect and keep all of your momentum moving fluidly forward.