Use These 6 Body Cues to Improve Your Running Form

Photo: John David Becker

Use these expert cues based on three-time world champion Sebastian Kienle’s mechanics to help fix up your own form.

Going for a run simply means lacing up and hitting the road, right? Not so fast. While technique is often emphasized in other sports, many overlook its importance in running. Indeed, research actually shows that being mindful of your body positioning and movement patterns while running can translate into better mechanics.

Next time you head out for a run, try utilizing the following cues to get the most out of your workout.

Head

Hold a natural gaze
Pro tip: Some runners are prone to having their head too far back or forward. In reality, somewhere in the middle is best. “Bring your head up, and look forward, you should feel your spine lengthening through the back of your neck,” says Douglas Wisoff, a Louisville, Colorado-based physical therapist and running coach.

Shoulders

Stay low and loose
Pro tip: “Relax your chest, and let your shoulders fall forward, but don’t push them forward,” Wisoff says. “They’ll fall into the right position if you’re not holding or pulling them back.” Continue to check in with your body as you get tired to make sure tension doesn’t cause you to raise your shoulders up closer to your ears.

Torso

Fall forward off the feet
Pro tip: “Don’t lean from the waist, which causes the hips to flex, and don’t sit back in the ‘bucket’ with your legs out in front of your body,” Wisoff says. With your head and shoulders in good position, lean slightly forward from your feet as you run. This should translate into striking close to your center of mass.

Arms

Aim forward
Pro tip: “Aiming your hands at something 15 feet in front of you can keep your arms from going across the front of your body,” Wisoff explains. Be sure to keep your fists loose but still controlled.

Legs

Drive your hip back and lift your knee
Pro tip: “Let your leg drift behind you for proper extension,” Wisoff explains. When you push off the ground and enter what is called the “swing phase,” the higher you drive your knee forward, the further back the opposite hip will travel and vice versa. Strong hip drive is inextricably linked to a more powerful stride.

Feet

Land under your body
Pro tip: “The issue with foot-strike is not so much how the foot hits the ground, but where it hits the ground in relation to your center of gravity,” Wisoff says. When you utilize a proper forward lean, your feet should naturally contact the ground over your center of mass—or close to it.