Good Running Form


Last Saturday I was lucky enough to secure a place at Fleet Feet of Chicago’s Running Form clinic.  This hour and a half class was filled with a ton of great information and I would like to share some of the highlights with you.

Fleet Feet began teaching this class after Playmaker’s, a running store in Michigan, began their Good Form Running program.  You can check out their website for more information.


Running with good form can help decrease your chances of injury, increase your running efficiency, and make running a lot easier for you.

The 4 main principles of good running form are:

1. Posture

2. Midfoot strike

3. Cadence

4. Leaning

As you work to use these techniques be sure to ease into any changes you might make to your form.  By gradually shifting to better form you will reduce the risk of injury.  Making changes too quickly can actually cause more damage.

Proper running posture begins with nice knee bend and moves all the way up to a  lengthened neckline.  Keep your head facing forward.  Your arms should stay nice and close to your body at a 90º angle and swing smoothly from “hip to nip.”  This swinging of the arms is referred to as your tricep kick back and is responsible for pushing your opposite leg forward.

A special note here about the tricep kick back:  As you come to the end of a race and you are looking for a bit more explosive speed, instead of pumping your arms harder and faster forward try pushing them harder in the backward motion.  This will help push the opposite leg forward harder to give you that extra “oomph.”

Your hands should stay relaxed.  It is recommended that you pretend you are holding a potato chip in between your fingers and don’t want to break it.  It depends what your take is on the potato chip holding….

How to hold your potato chip.

How to hold your potato chip.

How I prefer to hold potato chips!

How I prefer to hold potato chips!

The midfoot strike is more efficient than landing on the heel, where many of us were previously taught to land.  Landing on the heel overloads the shin, is less stable, and causes you to pronate more than you may already.


Cadence is the most important factor.  Your goal should be to take approximately 180 steps per minute or 3 steps per second.  You want to aim for a shorter stride in distance running.  Think of it this way, the further you extend your stride with each step the more energy you are going to expend.  If you run a 5k with long strides, you are going to be exhausted by the first mile.

You want to take more steps and keep them compact.  Doing 180 steps per minute will keep you lighter on your feet, also making it easier to land on your midfoot.  This cadence will keep your stride shorter which optimizes the elasticity of your muscles.

There are several apps you can download onto your phone that will help you with your cadence. and PodRunner find songs on your playlists that keep your steps at 180 per minute.

Your lean is the final part to the good form equation.  By having just a little forward lean to your posture it allows gravity to help get you going.  It doesn’t take much lean at all so don’t start hinging forward during your runs!  You can practice your lean by standing a foot or two away from a wall and falling into the wall and catching yourself.  Running up hills will also help improve your lean.  If you can’t find a hill near you, practice running on the treadmill with a bit of an incline.


All of these areas will help improve your running form and your pace and level of enjoyment.  Just remember that any changes you make should be done in small increments to avoid injury.

Personally, I think these are all great pointers and I like to keep them in mind.  I have certain habits that make my running form “imperfect.”  I supinate and don’t swing my arms much.  However, I have been running for years with decent success.  I am not out running to break any records or win any big races.  I certainly don’t mind making a few changes here and there.  I try to be very aware of keeping my shoulders from creeping up and my arms relaxed.  I also focus on not landing on my heel, especially after coming back from a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis.

If you feel confident in your form, take these pointers as reminders.  I believe these are best to be implemented if you are new to running or for runners with poor enough form that it actually hinders their performance or may cause injury.

If you are uncertain about your running form or are just beginning consult a RRCA certified coach for assistance or shoot me an e-mail with your questions at

If you run like Phoebe I recommend you reassess your form.

If you run like Phoebe I recommend you reassess your form.

Happy running!

26 thoughts on “Good Running Form

  1. Some great info here! Thanks for posting!

    After a year and a half of full time running, I always thought that “people just run the way they run”. How silly was I?

    For the past month I’ve been working on my form and trying to become more efficient!

  2. thanks for the running form tips! I find that focusing on my form while running helps me forget about the actual toughness of the run, kills two birds with one stone. I tagged you in a fun blog post btw 🙂

  3. The potato chip thing made me laugh. I like to turn the bag upside down and let them fall into my mouth, but I doubt that’d be ok when running.

  4. Thank you for posting such excellent tips! I will analyze my running form and begin implementing small changes, as you describe. I need to work on smaller strides and relaxing my shoulders and hands when I run. Keep up the great work!

  5. Glad to see they’re offering classes on form instead of just cramming feet into shoes that “fit” and expect the inch of rubber to make everything okay. I will say that I’m going to do a post in a while on cadence. I really feel like that 180 number is bandied about a bit more than it should. Too much thought for a comment. Though if you are over striding, or your cadence is super low – 160-165ish – start thinking about cadence.

    • I agree that focusing on 180 might be a bit too much. However, spending a couple of minutes getting a feel for what that pace is can be helpful for anyone who is taking too large of strides or running at a far too slow cadence.

  6. Some great advice in there, much of it is quite similar to the advice in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run book, which I try to follow without going barefoot. The cadence stuff is interesting through and will give that a try tomorrow.

  7. These are great tips. I’ve found that concentrating on arm swing is really helpful. I tend to run like I’m marching with more of a side-side arm motion. When I concentrate more on sending my elbow backward, I always speed up. I still have lots of room for improvement!

  8. Thanks for the tips. Downloaded some apps to look at my cadence. Pleased to see that at least part of my running is working towards good form, but must try harder. Thanks again!

  9. Thanks for the reminders! I find the slight forward lean to be easy for me (and changing that has increased my running efficiency!), I am mindful of a midfoot strike, and cadence is the most difficult for me. Up until about a year ago, I had run with a long stride nearly all of my life. I walk with a large stride as well. I will check out one of the apps to help keep me at 180 spm, though I do prefer to listen to podcasts (as opposed to music) when I run.

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