60 Second Guide: Running Technique

Want to run faster and avoid injury? Wave goodbye to biomechanical mistakes with our speedy guide to running technique

Posted: 24 August 2010
by Dominique Brady

Running should be one of the most natural actions of the human body. But however simple it may seem to put one foot in front of the other, debate rages over the most efficient way to run. In fact, poor running technique could hamper your speed and dramatically increase your risk of injury.

The running community's recent focus on biomechanics (how different forces act on the body, including gravity) means a confusing parade of running crazes - including barefoot running and the Chi or Pose techniques, which boost speed by exploiting gravity as well as your muscles.

But you needn't be baffled by your body - sit down for 60 seconds and discover how simple activities can improve your running technique.

Standing tall

Good posture is key to efficient running. Carrying poor posture from your working day into your training regime will place extra strain on the leg muscles and can contribute to back pain and shin splints. Running tall makes it easier to run efficiently and control your breathing.

For a quick fix, focus on keeping your head upright. Imagine yourself as a puppet, with a piece of thread pulling upwards from the top of your head. Looking straight ahead rather than down at the ground will also improve your posture.

Foot striking perfection

Unlike the majority of amateur runners, many elite athletes land on their forefoot rather than their heel when running. In recent years this method of running has come to the fore - it's even possible to buy running trainers designed to help you make the transition.

Advocates of Chi and Pose running stress that forefoot running is more efficient, produces fewer injuries and greater speed. However, if you're a natural heel-striker and wish to transition to forefoot running you will need to do so gradually and consider consulting an expert to avoid any risk of injury.  

Although the benefits of forefoot striking are still being debated, all the experts can agree on the dangers of overstriding. If your foot lands in front of your knee then you are overstriding. This means that your foot lands far in front of your centre of gravity, producing a 'braking effect' and an increased risk of injury. For running efficiency and pain-free training, aim for your foot to land directly under your front knee.

Try to land lightly, and spend as little time in contact with the ground as possible - this will reduce the risk of injury and increase your speed. Increase the efficiency and energy return of your landings by trying the skipping exercises loved by boxers. Start with 20-second skipping intervals and land either with both or alternative feet, increasing the speed you turn the rope and length of interval as you progress.

Efficient Arms

Perfecting your leg movement is important, but don't forget your arms. Efficient arm movement can improve your rhythm, aid balance and increase your speed.

Relax your shoulders - tension can hinder you from moving your arms correctly. Copy elite athletes by keeping your elbows bent at 90 degrees, and allow arm movement to flow forward from your shoulders rather than pushing with your forearms.

Although it might look odd, don't be afraid to occasionally drop your arms down to your sides and shake them out to reduce tension. 


If you're a Pilates or yoga devotee, you'll already be familiar with the diaphragmatic breathing technique which works best for running. Inhale through the nose while pushing your abdomen out, then exhale through your mouth.

Deep, rhythmic breathing is the most efficient way to absorb oxygen - and it helps your body to relax. Before leaving for a run, take a moment to focus on your breathing patterns. Regular practice will make efficient breathing come naturally, even in hard runs and races.

And After All That...

Only practice and time will help you develop the running style that suits you best. While this quick guide should point you in the right direction, if you're frequently injured or want to transform the way you run, there's no substitute for a gait or biomechanics analysis from a professional.

Although focusing on 'correct' running technique is a great way to break bad habits, exceptions exist to every rule and your top priority should be comfort. Paula Radcliffe's famous nodding and Haile Gebrselassie's crooked left arm (a habit left over from his childhood, when he ran to school every day carrying books) show that you don't have to run 'perfectly' to perform exceptionally.

Read more:

Reader to reader: Can you, and should you, change your running style?

Shinsplints - how to beat them

Q+A: How can I stop getting breathless when I run?

Everything You Need To Know About Hill Training

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Discuss this article

I wonder if there is someone who is a "natural heel-striker". I really mean it because I read of some people being pronators, supinators or having neutral landing (with something like 80 %, 15 % and 5 % disribution) but never read about natural fore-foot, mid-foot and heel strikers. Could you please point me to an article covering the subject?
Posted: 26/08/2010 at 11:11

The term "natural heel-striker" isn't particular useful, as it really needs clarifying whether 'natural' means as nature intended, or habitual as in through force of habit something becomes a natural response.

http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/ has some research on the area.
Posted: 26/08/2010 at 12:50

I simply can't believe a guide to running has stated "breath in through your nose". It is impossible to get enough oxygen this way. Its an old myth and should be banished once and for all.
Posted: 26/08/2010 at 12:54

"Wave goodbye to biomechanical mistakes with our speedy guide to running technique"

I would have thought 4 year olds who need childish, snappy headlines would be in the minority in the running fraternity.

You'd have thought the overstriding / heel striking section would have at least mentioned cadence.

I've never heard of breathe in through your nose only.  Use any orifice you can.

Who writes this shit?

Posted: 26/08/2010 at 13:30

There's some stuff on nose breathing halfway down this link.

I'd need more convincing.
Posted: 26/08/2010 at 15:35

The article describes one experiment that was done in Japan during a half marathon and there indeed most of the runners were heel strikers but all wore shoes. The article also says that when other people were asked to run barefoot in laboratory conditions, most of those heel-striking naturally changed to forefoot or midfoot striking. But it doesn't mention if those who continued to heel strike had some unique feet and were indeed natural born heel strikers.

Posted: 27/08/2010 at 08:02

Agreed... what utter nonesense!
Posted: 01/09/2010 at 13:50

on the nasal breathing front... though i'm not sure if there is much research to back it up, it has often been cited to me from a number of coaches in various sports.  the benefit i have found is that it introduces more control to breathing.  in particular when doing short fast burts, and then then lower tempos between, switching to nasal breathing i find aids my recovery, and my heart rate returns to a lower level much quicker than if i continued with oronasal breathing.  the same applies to hill sections too.  in terms of volume of air inhaled, oronasal is well documented to increase overall flow in general, but this is not always the case, and some studies have shown that in submaximal exercise subjects do not always switch to oronasal breathing.  in truth, it is probably down to the indivdual as to whether deep regular nasal breathing will work for you.  
Posted: 09/09/2010 at 17:07

I was told by a fitness coach to breath through your mouth and nose at the same time. But this was a football coach so what do they know?
Posted: 10/09/2010 at 15:56

I usually breathe through my arse during hard sessions
Posted: 10/09/2010 at 16:56

Is this really the 62nd guide to running technique, or does it just feel like it?
Posted: 01/01/2011 at 19:03

depends how hard you run. My easy runs rely entirely on nose inhalation. Doesn't require mouth inhalation at all. A tempo run is another matter...
Posted: 09/02/2011 at 22:19

As a newbie I breathe any way I can. That means nose and mouth. I read in some magazine or weekend supplement once about the runners in a part of mexico I think who as part of their tribal thing run in ultra distance events wearing sandals. The sandals are effectively like running barefoot and they have a totally different running style to say more western, shoe wearing marathon runners. They use the forefoot as strike point to cushion the footfall more by the natural shock absorption of the foot's bones, muscles.etc. It could have also been a documentary too.

IIRC we evolved to run barefoot with a forefoot strike. Also earlier on in sportiung history with the running shoes that were around they ran that way since their shoes had little in the way of cushioning. The article / documentary made the point that the hell strike style of running only came about with the cushioned running shoe. Even earlier versions of trainers (often home-made with the likes of the waffle sole) had lower level sof cushioning needing the runner to run more like this than the heelstrike running most do.

Anyway I'm no expert just have a geekish retention for information so probably got some of it wrong.

Posted: 10/02/2011 at 11:12


Dopo le droghe come Viagra e Cialis ha rivoluzionato il trattamento di disfunzione sessuale maschio verso la fine degli anni 90, un turbine di neve dei test clinici sono stati condotti in donne nelle speranze che le droghe potrebbero fare lo stessi per fare rivivere l'azionamento di sesso diminuente della donna.

Posted: 29/04/2011 at 05:05

Breathing in through your nose is easy only for the people being following yoga, not necessary for everyone but is a good technique to follow, it will make your lungs stronger. u
Posted: 16/03/2012 at 13:57

i've a deviated septum from 10 years of karate, breathing through my nose standing still is hard work

Posted: 16/03/2012 at 16:27

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