10 Components of Good Running Technique

Is it possible to improve your running technique?

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Tue Oct 31st, 2000, 44 comments

good-running-formSome people, even many doctors, believe that people are born with a given way of moving which they cannot change much, if at all. These same people say that some people are "designed" from birth to be good athletes or not to be particularly athletic at all. I happen to believe you can make substantial changes in your body and how you move, no matter what kind of a body you were given at birth.

With practice, you can change your running form forever. (You'll notice that talent is not one of the items on this list!) To help you learn ChiRunning, we've demonstrated the technique clearly in our ChiRunning DVD

10 Components of Good Running Technique

  1. Flexibility: You need to have it, not only in your muscles, but in your tendons, ligaments, and joints. They all work better when they move with flexibility and any restrictions in your muscles, ligaments, or tendons will limit your range of motion, period. As we get older we tend to become less active. A good axiom that best describes this is: "Use it or lose it." If you don't use your muscles and joints they will begin to stiffen and then, if you still don't do anything, atrophy. Flexibility doesn't just happen, you have to work at it. Even stretching a few minutes a day is enough for most people to maintain a good range of motion and decrease their chances of injury due to muscle pulls.
     
  2. Good posture: Your running technique is totally dependent on your posture. The efficiency of your running technique is directly proportional to the quality of your posture. What is good posture? According to Yoga teachers, along with many other mainstream body movement disciplines, good posture involves having a reasonably straight spine with not too much straightness and not too much bend. The more you slump, the more your body's muscles need to work to hold you upright. Poor posture not only restricts the circulation of blood to your muscles and organs but also inhibits the oxygen supply to your brain.
     
  3. Good leg motion: Overstriding is a major cause of both hamstring and knee injuries. This is when you land with your feet in front of you instead of under you. Not bending your knees when you run creates stiffness and poor circulation in your legs. Your knees should be bent at a 90º angle when you are warmed up and running at a good, medium pace.
     
  4. Cadence: Most people have a low cadence ( the number of strides you take per minute). When you run, you want to spend the least amount of time on your legs as possible. The longer you take with each stride, the more time your foot spends on the ground, and the more energy your legs have to expend to support your body weight. Even if it's a split second during each stride, it adds up quickly when you're talking about 1200 steps per mile. Strive to maintain a cadence of 85-90 strides per minute with each leg. Using a metronome is a great way to regulate your cadence - try it and you'll be amazed. It can truly transform your running.
     
  5. Body Sensing: Listening to your body is key to preventing injuries. ChiRunning helps you understand why you're feeling sore, tight, or in pain and teaches you how to solve the problem. 
     
  6. Good mental focus: Making changes takes mental focus. If you want to run faster, farther, and injury-free, you'll need to use your brain to re-educate your body. When you determine the right adjustments to make to your running form, your mind can tell your body what to do until it becomes part of your muscle memory. Not only can this save you some pain (and a few trips to the physical therapist), it can also be meditative to become deeply attuned to your body’s sensations. 
     
  7. Good upper body/lower body coordination: The general rule is that your upper body and lower body should be doing equal amounts of work. For most runners, this 50/50 ratio is tilted one way or the other. When your upper body and lower body are working in unison rather than against each other, it spreads the work of running over the whole body and takes the load off of any single muscle group. It's similar to the principle that work is best done if the responsibility is spread out over many workers. 
     
  8. Good breathing habits: Watch a baby breathing sometime. You won't see his chest rise and fall with each breath. You'll see his abdominal area expand and contract like someone breathing in and out of a balloon. It's called "belly breathing", and it's how we should breathe all the time. When your breath is shallow, you only use the very upper part of your lungs and don't take advantage of your total lung capacity. Oxygen is what your muscles use to convert stored fuels into usable energy, and any reduction in your oxygen uptake will effect your ability to burn glycogen.
     
  9. Proper bend in your knees and elbows: The less you bend your arms and legs, the more work your muscles have to do when you're running. An arm or leg that is bent at the knee or elbow will swing much easier than one that is straight. As you approach your "cruising" speed, your forearms and shins should both be parallel to the ground in mid-swing.
     
  10. Staying relaxed: This includes having a good sense of humor, observing what's going on within you and around you, and responding wisely to those observations. When I'm relaxed I reduce my chances of straining a tight muscle. Tense muscles restrict the range of motion in my arms and legs, making it hard to run faster. A relaxed runner will spend less time recovering from a race than an inefficient runner who is burning more fuel for the same amount of distance.

Running doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t have to hurt. Everyone can learn good running form, from beginners to seasoned marathoners to performance runners. ChiRunning is here to help every step of the way. 

 

 

    Run farther, faster, and with less effort.

   Get the ChiRunning book, DVD & metronome>

 

 

      

44 CommentsLeave a comment below

I have started Chi running and read the book and now have the video. After watching the video I have a problem with lifting my foot and compleating a compleat knee bend. I do life my ankle over the other ankle and I keep my foot relaxed and have a good foot plant. Any suggestions.

Hal, I really don’t believe you have anything to worry about in this aspect of the technique. Chances are good that you have been practicing mostly in your comfortable second gear, which means that wheel coming up behind you will not be more than a 90 degree bend. If your lower leg is truly relaxed and you are allowing the road to open up the pelvic rotation to take your foot back, then you are fine. You don’t want to work to get the foot higher by engaging the calves and/or the hamstrings.

I am having 2 problems right now. First my lower legs hurt mostly after I run .I have to take something for the pain. Am and pm.the other problem is my breathing techniques suck. I’m trying to breath belly deep but I feel like I’m smothering

Jeff Carnivale Sep 17th, 2013 11:54am

Rhonda,

If your lower legs are hurting, chances are there is too much tension there - most likely from landing to far onto the forefoot and/or pushing off to propel the run forward (a slow cadence usually accompanies these issues). Really work on starting with good posture, then fall from the ankles slightly to instigate your forward motion. Try to simply let the breathing happen naturally, if necessary focus slightly more on the exhale (which also helps relax the body). Remember that make some changes is a gradual progress and bring relaxation and balance to your runs.

My height is 167.7 cm.  With hard work and practice , can I run at the level of usain bolt.
Can I run at the level of that much faster.

Jeff Carnivale Sep 23rd, 2013 10:55am

Vinay,

Some of us may want to run more like Usain Bolt, but it may be better to set some more attainable short term goals. Be tall, fall into your run and stay relaxed. Speed is usually the happy side effect.

I have heard of “belly breathing”.  Can you tell me more about this and how to achieve this so that I can improve my running.

My hamstrings are always tight, even with stretching, especially my right leg.  What can I do to help this get better?

Thank you for your comments.

Jeff Carnivale Oct 22nd, 2013 01:08pm

Rosie,

Belly breathing focuses more on your exhale, clearing the lungs completely, and letting oxygen refill all the way to the bottom of the lungs (belly area). Practice with a 3 exhale/2 inhale count while standing in good posture. Tight hamstrings are an issue for many runners (and cyclists). You may want to add some foam rolling to your stretching and get in touch with your local ChiRunning instructor to take a look at your running gait to identify any areas that might be leading to the imbalance.

I have shin splints. What suggestions do you have to make sure I am running with proper form/technique? Shorter stride? More focus on mid-foot to push off of? Do you think a heavier shoe would help?

Jeff Carnivale Nov 4th, 2013 09:04am

Kate,

Sorry you are suffering with shin splints. Yes, a shorter stride, one that lands underneath you not ahead of your hips is very important. If you do this you are more likely to land mid-foot. Focus on moving and landing with relaxed feet and ankles and if you are leaning slightly forward you don’t have to push off at the end of the stride (which activates the smallest muscles to work).
Heavier shoes will in all likelyhood make the problem worse not better.

I have been running for 1 year and had 3 back surgeries. 25 years of back problem and all of the pain is gone. Some of us absolutely need to do serious stretching before running and that was me. Hip Abductor exercises and external/internal exercises will help. I also practice breathing excercises in and out through the nose. 4 breathes in the nose and 4 out through the nose over and over again. It might be easier to start off with two. Keep your mouth closed. I ran yesterday a 5:43 mile and I am 46 years old with two screws in my back.

I have plantar facittus,  is there anything I can do to help me gwt back to running any advice would be welcome

Nathan White Nov 24th, 2013 09:45am

Hi, I started with Chi running about 3 yrs ago. For me it took quite a while before I got used to it, and my big breakthrough came when I started practicing standing (and later running) in good posture. That is (I believe) critical for success. Now, I find Chi running to be a blessing. Good luck with your running endeavors.!

im somewhat flatfooted I just seem to have a hard time running long distances any suggestions

y do i lose my stamina so early!!!?
i play football for 90min btidnt get tired..when i run i see my vision blurry and lose speed…i alwaysrun on my toes..is it aproblem pls help me out within 2 days i have 400m sprint cumming up.Plz -_-

Jeff Carnivale Jan 30th, 2014 01:50pm

Jon,

Flatfootedness does not mean you won’t be able to run distance. Start working on your posture and identifying the core muscles that are at work to keep you there. The kinetic chain of medial muscles from your arches all the way up to the adductors (inner thigh) need to be strengthened (trained) to do the work so that you do not collapse into your foot.

Hi, i have osteoarthrtitis on my knees. I world like to Get into Running so am looking into different areas - barefoot running, Alexander technique, Chi running. Any thoughts?
Thank you

I am only 13 and my height is 5.7 feet I can run 100m in 15.6 seconds but my friends told me that you can run even more fast but your posture is wrong do you can give me some tips about that plz

Jeff Carnivale Feb 20th, 2014 03:28pm

Lee,
I believe you are on to something in every area you mentioned (though a transition to barefoot should be done slowly, maybe hold onto the shoes and work a barefoot style and slowly move to lesser and lesser shoe).

Aashish- Posture contains many components, but mainly stand tall through the crown of your head and if you were sideways to a mirror you should see your ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle all in a line. Relax into this and just fall into your run.

Thomas Pearson Mar 17th, 2014 08:29am

Why am l unable to bend my knees when l run? I get very tired & l can’t swing my hips???

I have 2 artifical knees the last one done 6 months ago and am finding it difficult getting the bend in the knees when trying to run, do you think this is just post op stiffness.  I also have inflammed achilles tendons in both ankles as a result of the ops but find that keeping moving is helping but just need advice on the knees.  Thanks

Wow,

Be patient, this is a big change. I assume you are talking about the knee bend on the back side of your running wheel (as there is not much on the landing). If so, my guess is you are running in first gear and therefore should not naturally have much knee bend, just a small wheel (lower leg not even to 90 degrees of the ground). Keep your cadence in the optimal range and relax into the backswing and don’t worry about the knees bending much.

Thomas,

Chances are a couple of things are happening: tension in or non-level pelvis and tension in the hamstrings. Possibly, you are also thinking you need more knee bend than you think. Make sure your posture is right and when you fall into first gear, relax and let the road gently pull the legs behind you.

I had a complete hip replacement 5 months ago following a cycling accident while training for a triathlon.  I am new to the sport and have never been much of a runner.  My goal is to do an Ironman distance triathlon in two years.

My doctor tells me I must change my running style from heel strike to a less impactful one to reduce the strain on the hip.  Chi Running seems to be a very good choice.  As a non-runner who want to do a marathon on the back end of a very long day I have a simple/complicated question.  Now what?

Stuart,

Start with the book and DVD. Get the feel for what it is like to be running/walking more efficiently with less impact, then find an instructor to check in with.

Hi there.
I purchased the book, dvd and app.  I am an overweight person who is hoping to run injury free and to be able to get more exercise and lose weight by running.  Do you have any advice for someone like me? I feel like i can’t get the posture right and that my feet don’t do the circular motion. How do i know it is right? any advice?

Claudia,
Your instincts to make sure your posture is correct are great. Practice all the time; standing, sitting, walking and it will start to become more natural. As you are gaining your aeorbic base fitness combined walk breaks with your runs as well. I also believe contacting a certified instructor for a lesson would be of great value: http://www.chirunning.com/learn-it/find-an-instructor/

Good running form is so important, and bad running form can have such a big impact to your body and injuries too (I am a living example of this)

victor pandit May 21st, 2014 11:49am

sir my running laps is to short how to increase my running speed in long race please send me some images

Keep working ,fantastic job!

Renald Smith Jun 1st, 2014 08:50pm

Hey,

I was wondering whether it mattered if how or at what angle your feet hit the ground. People tell me I run sort a bit duck-like. It’s what feels natural. Should I try and change it, and if so, how?

Renald,

Yes, if your toes are pointed out to the side (rather than the direction the rest of your body is going) you should look to gradually bring them to forward facing. Energy is going in the wrong direction and your knee is internally rotating every stride (this is a common cause of “runner’s knee”).

Hi. I have a athletics tournament tomorrow and I am quite nervous. I dont really run that much im just good at other sports. I need tips quick????

I am 41 yrs female. I am basically a non athlete person. I started running two months before. I could complete my first 5 k in 45 mints. Now I m practicing for 10 k. I could not improve my speed. I still take 1.32 mints for 10 k.

I developed minor knee pain in my right leg. How can I improve?  Is this very slow?

Hi I recently got an ankle injury and have changed my running form which has caused pain in both my inner ankle (tibial tendons). I used to overpronate now I am subpinating.
What can I do? Will Chi Running help me? What excercises do you recommend?

This is great article about runners! http://niepanikuj.pl/en/2014/12/what-type-of-runner-are-you/ I was laughing all day long. I think I saw them all smile I might be numer 3.

samantha fisher Feb 19th, 2015 03:17pm

I have been slowly switching my running form to a more chi based running form. I was more flat footed lander before. I feel good. Is it normal to have achilles tendon soreness when making the switch? Should I be worried Im doing something wrong?

dear danny
i’ve studied and applied your chi method for running and i it gives me pleasure to inform you that it helped me alot in running.since i’m belong to asian country and buying your dvd and book finds me uneconomical for me due to currency conversion.i want to know more about chi running.i have some doubts that i would to get it cleared
earlier i used to breath in and out from mouth but it didnt helped me and i used to get tired but when i started to breath in and
out from nose only..i could run efficently farther and without getting out of breath. please tell me how chi running teaches to breath.and secondly am i breathing right?
science explains that right method is to breath from nose .
2.i went through couple of articles on forefoot and mid foot striking.chi method teaches mid foot where as pose method emphasis more on forefoot striking by giving examples of kenyan runners mo farah.
when i run on forefoot it gives me a braking effect on the contrary if i run on midfoot my feet feels lighter.also which areas of foot when touches the ground causes a midfoot striking .as u see the arch of our feet that hardly touches the ground is the mid of the human feet.

Bernadette St Louis Apr 4th, 2015 06:50pm

I’m training for a half marathon and I’m beginner. ..i find my self getting tired very fast when I’m running and my left leg always gets tired very quickly. ...can you please help me with that problem.

Hi Bernadette

I would recommend a 360 gait / leg movement analysis as a starting point, focusing on your leg movement to see what differences there are between your right and left leg swing.

Assuming there’s nothing obvious, I would then suggest you simply join a running club that has a good range of structured training events and take the training really gently. I started running fairly recently and suddenly developed left leg / knee problems that put a dampener on my training (I had to DVS several runs) for about a year. So ... slowly slowly catchee monkee!!!!

Don’t push yourself too hard and fast, listen to your body, but give yourself every opportunity to run for slightly longer distances when your body says its up to it.

David

I have run for years with little improvement on my speed.  I am lucky to finsh a 10K in 1:08 and a half in 2:35.  I just noticed,from any of the multiple pics that have been taken of me at running events, I only bend my knees slightly…..nowhere near 90 degrees. I assume if I bend my knees more it will improve my speed. Can you suggest how I can increase my knee bending without causing injury?  I am frustrated to see so many other, who look heavier and more out of shape than me be so much faster…

Danny Dreyer May 24th, 2015 02:10pm

Terry, Bending your knees will improve your speed,  but there’s a lot more to it than just bending your knees. Be sure not to lift your knees, just let your feet float up behind you as you lean forward in a slight lean. Check out the ChiRunning book or find a local instructor and you’ll get all the tips you can ever use.

gilda smith Jul 1st, 2015 10:09pm

Hi I want to sign up my son for your class at Kirpalu, He is a sprinter, not a distance runner and had a severe hamstring injury this spring which through off his track season.
Will Chirunning help

Hi,

Thanks for the article. HAve you ever worked with anybody who has a cramping ankle? Ihave had this problem for over 2 years. I can run between 5-8 minutes usually then have to stop before running again alos for just a few minutes
.
Any ideas how to improve - muscle weaknesses higher up maybe or running style?

thank you,

Andrew

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A Chi Running Love Letter

A message of pure gratitude as your book on Chi Running has completely changed my running experience. In only three and a half years I've gone through patellar tendonitis (in both knees), plantar fasciitis, and many other injuries I can't even describe.

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