Damian Stoy is a professional runner, coach & founder of Wholistic Running. He offers personalized Online Coaching and Injury Prevention Plans. Find out more HERE.
When you run, do you feel like water flowing down a mountainside? Is it effortless, easy and peaceful? Are you rarely or never injured? I ask because running can be all the above and pain-free.
Think of the last time you rode a non-motorized scooter. To propel yourself forward, you would place your foot flatly underneath you and kick back. Of course you wouldn’t reach your foot out in front of you with a straight leg, heel strike and then kick back to propel yourself. It doesn’t work because an extended leg acts more like a brake. But this is exactly what I see most runners do. And when I say most, this MOST likely means you.
This is what I see most runners doing with their feet and legs and the same is exactly true when I see people walk! The jamming impacts your knees and back and you are running as if you are constantly applying a brake instead of letting gravity do the work for you. The only way to create movement is to push off with the back leg which wastes energy and causes fatigue.
So what exactly are most runners and walkers doing (think you)? With their legs, they are reaching out in front of them. They may or may not heel strike and usually land with a pretty straight leg and sometimes with a locked out knee. This results in a lot of excessive impact (think of the jamming of the scooter) and needless running related injuries. What is important is where the foot lands in relation to your hips or center of mass.
This is how many people run. Notice the foot landing in front of the hips and heel strike creating excessive impact especially on the knees and back.
A more efficient, less impactful and more natural way to run is to have the feet land mid-foot and underneath the hips. The faster you go, the more they will actually land behind your hips, same as when riding a scooter.
Proper running technique. Notice how the feet land underneath or behind the hips just like how children run.
Please don’t think you accomplish this by thrusting the hips forward when you run. You accomplish this by leaning slightly from the ankles with proper posture allowing the legs to open behind you.
I teach a very effective way for runners to easily learn how to run in a way that is more natural, reduces impact and therefore, reduces injuries. Because you are using gravity instead of your own energy, you’ll also run more efficiently, easier and have more fun!
So much attention is being made about heel striking and how it is ‘bad’. It is, but what is more important is where the foot lands in relation to the hips. It is almost impossible to heel strike if your feet are landing underneath your hips.
For a more efficient, low impact way of running, try these quick tips:
Have your feet land more underneath the hips. You can accomplish this by having a shorter stride or higher cadence (steps per minute). Think smaller, shorter steps. You will not lose speed because you can open up your stride behind you and relax to increase your stride length therefore your speed. Also, with good posture and long spine, think of leaning from the ankles and letting gravity pull you forward. The key is not leaning from the hips or head. You may not get it right away and feel the difference at first, but ideally you will progress gradually.
Poor technique resulting in fatigue and injuries. Don’t lean from the hips or neck. Proper alignment, an engaged core and good posture is key.
Barefoot running can accomplish some of these goals. But still, many people run poorly and have poor posture resulting in fatigue and injuries while barefoot running. Also, I have some runners who come to me saying they have practiced running technique and it has made running more difficult. The problem is that they are doing the technique incorrectly without knowing it. This is why it is important to learn from an experienced teacher and runner.
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