How to improve your running technique
Looking for how to improve your running technique? Going for a run is one of our favourite forms of exercise here at Liz Earle Wellbeing. It’s a fab form of cardio that gets us in the great outdoors. What’s more, after you’ve bought your running shoes, it’s free!
While many of us will take lessons when we start a new hobby, the same often can’t be said about running. Learning how to run efficiently is vital. Not only will you enjoy this exercise more, but you’ll also protect yourself from injury.
When it comes to running well, it all comes down to strength, mobility and technique. We asked personal trainer and yoga teacher Minnie Samengo to share her top tips on how to run efficiently.
How to improve your running technique
How your foot lands
It might sound simple enough, but how your foot lands on the ground can make a huge impact to your running technique.
“The comfort of some trainers means that you can have large cushioning between the ground and your foot,” says Minnie. “This can encourage you to strike the ground with your heel first. Heel striking can lead to injuries such as shin splits – a pain along the front of your shin.”
Your foot strike will be unique to you but, if you notice that you’re experiencing pain after a run, it may well be worth investigating your technique. While there’s some debate in the running community on the best way for your foot to strike the floor, a mid-foot landing is generally agreed as being more natural.
Running shops are great ports of call to assess your running technique but, if you can’t wait for shops to open after lockdown, booking an online appointment with a physiotherapist or running specialist is a great option.
The shape of your foot
Once you’ve sussed out your landing, it can also be worth having a think about the shape of your foot when running.
“You want to avoid overpronation of the foot where the foot rolls inward, lowering the arch,” says Minnie. “If the foot over pronates, the knee can start to internally rotate, causing all sorts of issues. A common injury is shin splits.
“The pronation of the foot and the internal rotation of your knee puts a lot of strain on your tibialis posterior tendon [the tendon that connects the calf muscle to the bones of the foot and holds up the arch].”
Over a period of time, this overpronation of the foot can cause discomfort and result in serious injury. As Minnie explains, being aware of your foot shape during movement is vital.
“To avoid overpronation, start becoming aware of your foot position, even when you’re standing still,” she says. “You should feel even pressure on the balls of your big toes, little toes and heels. This is the tripod of your foot.
“Everything starts from the foundations so once your foot awareness is sorted, everything can start to align nicely on top.”
Find a good rhythm
Now it’s time to find your rhythm. Cadence – the total number of steps you take in a minute – can have a big impact on your running technique.
“It’s common for people to spend too much time on one foot,” says Minnie. “They have a slow, heavy step count.
“This means they’ll be loading too heavily on the joint, losing force. They’ll have to recruit more force to get out of that position, causing over-fatigue in the joint and muscle, resulting in inefficiency.”
Instead, try to channel a light and bouncy rhythm when you’re running.
“Try to increase your step rate to a 1-2, 1-2, 1-2 rhythm where you’re light on your feet,” says Minnie. “It might be helpful to imagine that you’re running on something hot, where you want minimal time spent on each foot.”
Avoid muscle imbalance
Your legs power you through your runs. While running will have great benefits of strengthening and toning your legs, it’s important that you work your leg muscles efficiently to perfect your running technique.
One problem that can occur when running is muscle imbalance, especially in your quadriceps. Your quadriceps (or quads) are the large group of muscles at the front of your thigh. They can have a tendency to become dominant when running, leaving your gluteal muscles (in your bottom) and your hamstrings (down the back of your thigh) weaker.
“Quad dominance is a problem as it can lead to the quad muscles pulling and pressing your patella (knee cap) onto your femur (thigh bone). This will result in pain behind the knee,” explains Minnie. “Quad dominance can come into play when you see runners leaning forward and running with a heel strike.”
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to resolve this. Incorporating strength training and hill running can help to balance your muscles. As Minnie explains, getting your glute muscles firing is key.
“Get out of your quads and into your glutes,” she says. “By increasing your cadence, you start to activate your posterior chain [the muscles on the backside of your body].
“Strong glutes are key for running. Think stretching the quads and strengthening the bottom while increasing your step rate, keeping a nice tall spine.”
Aim for quality, not quantity
It’s tempting to see how far you can run when you head out, but this could be impacting your technique. Instead, as Minnie explains, it can be better to go for quality over quantity.
“I believe it’s important to move your body efficiently in order for you to do the things you love for longer,” she says. “Rather than slogging out the 10km plus runs, think shorter runs but with a quicker step count.
“I always find it helps to run on softer ground where possible. If you’re running around a park, try and avoid the tarmac paths and instead run on the dirt track or grass.”