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by Alison McGinnis, PT, DPT, FAFS

Posted in Team Finish Line.

April 12th, 2020

What is The Ideal Running Form?

Optimizing your running form is key to reducing injuries and improving performance. Many of us don’t think about running as a skill we need to practice, but it’s a highly complex series of movements coordinated together.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all running form, but there are a few basics that can be worked on to enhance performance.


Ideal Running Form:

  • Ribs vertical
  • Center of mass shifted forward
  • Foot strike with a vertical tibia, underneath hips
  • Feet relaxed
  • Neutral pelvis with minimal anterior tilt


What does Ideal Running form look and feel like?

Ideal running form consists of an upright posture with your ribs down and your shoulders stacked in line with hips. Let’s get you setup:

  1. Stand up tall then exhale fully.
    • Feel your abdominals engage at the end of the exhale and take note that your chest/ribcage is now vertical instead of flared out. This position allows your trunk to rotate properly. (If you want to feel the wrong rib position, place hands on your lower ribs and take a giant breath in through your mouth. Feel your ribs flare up and out to the side? This is NOT where you want your ribs to be).
  2. Next, shift your entire body forward until your weight is in the balls of your feet (don’t break at the hips; weight should shift at the ankles).
    • When running you want to feel like you are driving forward instead of leaning back.
    • Think about moving the ground backward with your foot as you push off and move yourself forward.
    • When running you want to feel like you are driving forward instead of leaning back.
  3. As your leg swings forward, drive the knee up high (similar to riding a bike) then allow the foot to swing through and back towards you before the foot hits the ground.
    • As the pelvis travels forward, the foot will land relatively underneath the forward-moving hips. This prevents a breaking force of the foot reaching forward into the ground. The tibia will be mostly vertical at the time of foot strike if performed correctly (and not angled forward).
  4. Don’t forget to relax your feet! If you’re working hard to pull the front of your foot up as the leg swings through, you’ll most likely heel strike hard into the ground. If your foot is relaxed, you’ll land more naturally on the midfoot. Don’t focus on where or what part of your foot hits the ground, just make sure it’s relaxed.
  5. The pelvis should stay relatively neutral* while running. Many of us have tight hip flexors from years of sitting in chairs, so when we need to move the leg behind us for push off the femur pulls the pelvis with it into an anterior pelvic tilt. When this happens the knee drive of the front leg is reduced causing the foot to reach out further and over-lengthens the hamstring while increasing impact forces at initial contact. It also causes the trunk to lean backward and over-lengthens abdominals which reduces ability of the trunk to rotate.
    • At least 10 degrees of hip extension is needed for proper running form, or the above compensations begin to occur. Check out the hip flexor stretch as a great way to restore your hip mobility.


*There is a lot of relative movement of the pelvis between right and left sides while running so don’t attempt to keep your pelvis from moving at all. This is to simplify the discussion. If you want more details let me know!



Give it a try on your next run!

On your next easy run, leave your watch at home and focus on your form. Go through this checklist throughout your run and see how your form stacks up. Remember changing your form can feel harder before it feels easier, since it is not your normal mechanics. Stick with it and soon you’ll see the benefits!

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