Proper Running Form Tips Straight from the Experts

Whether you're a novice or in need of a refresher, it's essential to understand the basics of optimizing your running form. Achieving proper running form goes beyond mere appearance and involves various factors like body lean, breathing technique, and arm swing. It's natural to have questions about these aspects while running, as we all strive for improvement. Understanding and implementing proper running form not only reduces the risk of injuries but can also enhance your performance, leading to personal bests. Efficiency is key, especially in long-distance running, where conserving energy is crucial. Unnecessary movements and improper breathing can exhaust your body. Moreover, running with correct form alleviates discomfort associated with this high-intensity exercise. Maintaining good form prevents strain, neck pain, and overall unpleasant experiences during your runs. Embrace proper running form to optimize your performance and make running an enjoyable endeavor.

The 5 Elements of Proper Running Form

No need to creep on your area joggers to suss out exactly how you should be moving. Here, experts share five major elements of proper running form.


When it comes to maintaining proper running form, it is essential to have good posture. To achieve this, imagine yourself "running tall" with your ears aligned over your shoulders. Keep your gaze focused about 15 to 20 feet ahead and avoid jutting your chin forward, as it can strain your neck, back, and shoulder muscles. Additionally, maintain a slight forward lean while running, as if you are falling forward and your legs are catching you. This lean should originate from your ankles rather than your hips, at an angle of approximately 10 degrees. Remember to prioritize ankle strength and mobility for optimal running posture.

Stride Length

The optimal stride length for runners is a crucial factor in maintaining proper running form. It is not necessary for the average runner to measure their stride length precisely, but finding a balance between a stride that is too long and one that is too short is essential. To ensure efficient running, your foot should make contact with the ground directly underneath your body rather than out in front of it. Overstriding, which involves taking excessively long strides, can lead to a bouncy running style and increased contact time with the ground, resulting in more strain on your muscles. On the other hand, having an excessively short stride is less common but can still hinder running efficiency. You can determine if your stride is too short by recording yourself running and counting the number of steps you take per minute. Ideally, distance runners should aim for an average of 180 or more steps per minute, while slower runners tend to have an average of around 160 steps per minute. If you find that you are taking significantly fewer steps, it may be beneficial to lengthen your stride slightly. Improving your running form, including your stride length, may require outside assistance, such as a gait analysis at a running clinic. Bear in mind that initially modifying your stride may feel unnatural since it deviates from your accustomed running style. However, with practice and persistence, you can gradually adjust your stride length to improve your overall running performance.

Foot Strike

Research has yet to provide conclusive evidence on the optimal foot strike pattern for proper running technique. While some experts advocate for landing on the midfoot or forefoot rather than the heel, a 2021 systematic review published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine argues that there is no significant advantage in terms of running efficiency or injury prevention. Even elite athletes do not necessarily adjust their footstrike pattern to favor the front or middle of the foot. In fact, a study conducted during the 2017 IAAF World Championships found that most marathon runners opted for a rearfoot (heel) strike pattern, including the top four male finishers. Therefore, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual biomechanics. Rather than focusing solely on foot strike pattern, it is more important to assess if any issues exist with the current pattern, such as inefficiency or recurring injuries. Only then should considering a change be warranted.

Arm Swing

Your arm swing is a crucial aspect of proper running form as it directly relates to your stride. In order to maintain optimal arm movements, it is recommended to keep your elbows bent at approximately a 90-degree angle and swing them alongside your ribcage. When aiming for faster running speeds, focus on actively pulling your elbows backward with each stride.

It is important to avoid excessive tension in your arm swing. To achieve this, imagine holding a fragile potato chip between your thumb and forefinger, ensuring you don't break it. This will help maintain a relaxed grip and prevent unnecessary strain.

While swinging your arms, be mindful not to overdo it. Imagine there is an imaginary wall a few inches in front of you, and strive to keep your arm swing behind it. Over-swinging can lead to over-striding, which should be avoided for optimal running efficiency.

Keep your shoulders down and ensure that your arms are swinging forward and backward, rather than across your body. As you run, aim to have your wrists and hands lightly brushing against your hips.


Your body relies on oxygen as its fuel source during running. To optimize your oxygen intake without causing panic in your body, it is recommended to take longer, slower, and deeper breaths. The exact breathing pattern varies from person to person, so it is important to find what works best for you. Some may find inhaling for two seconds and exhaling for two seconds effective, while others may prefer a different rhythm. The key is to relax and breathe efficiently. If you find yourself hyperventilating, it indicates that you are not getting enough air and should slow down your breathing pace. While the traditional advice is to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, it is not a one-size-fits-all rule. Each individual may have their own preferences and needs. For more specific guidance, you can learn about proper breathing techniques for running. Remember that maintaining good running form involves multiple factors, including upright posture, intentional stride length, strong arm swing, and mindful breathing. By focusing on these aspects, you will reap the benefits of efficient running form for many miles to come.

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