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Tips for How to Improve Your Running Form

Even if you are an experienced runner, spending some time and focus working on your running form can also be helpful

Photo: Getty Images

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In this proper running form mini-series, we discussed what the ideal running form looks like last week, and in this installment, we will discuss some effective tips to improve your running form.

So, if you find yourself shuffling along, overstriding, swinging your arms from side to side, hunching over when you run, using a short and choppy stride, or demonstrating some other common running form mistake, keep reading to learn how to fix bad running form and start working your way towards gliding along like a graceful gazelle.

Can I Improve My Running Form?

It’s no surprise that many runners, from beginners to veterans, have poor running form, or at least one aspect of their running form deviates from what may be considered proper running form.

The good news is that it is possible to improve poor running form if you are willing to put in the time and work to change your running form gradually.

Depending on the nature or specific running form mistakes that you tend to exhibit, fixing poor running form can take a while and may be frustrating at times, but many runners find it well worth the investment in energy and training time.

As a general rule of thumb, the longer you have been running with a given running form, the more challenging it will be to “relearn“ proper running form since your current running technique has become automatically patterned into your brain.

Beginners are at an advantage when it comes to correcting running form mistakes because their poor running form habits are less ingrained in the brain. 

That said, even if you have been running for years, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see significant improvement in your running form if you actually take the time to identify your running form flaws and start employing the best tips to improve your running form.

Particularly if you have dealt with injuries or feel like you have hit a running plateau and just can’t seem to get faster, focusing on collecting your running form can be a valuable investment in your injury resilience and running performance down the line.

RELATED: Running Form: Am I Overstriding?

How Do I Fix My Running Form?

Here are some tips for how to improve your running form:

Adjust Your Form Gradually

Any time you are working to change some aspect of your running form, it is best to make adjustments gradually so that you do not start applying all of the impact stress to another part of your foot and the kinetic chain of your lower limb that has not been used to dealing with this stress.

This tip for improving running form is particularly important for changing your gait or running stride.

Make One Running Form Change At a Time 

Focus on changing just one aspect of your running form at a time. This will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by having to consciously focus on every aspect of your running form simultaneously.

For instance, if you determine that you need to work on your arm swing, posture, and your foot strike pattern, start with just one of these elements.

After you have spent a couple of weeks trying to focus on this aspect of the ideal running form, and that change has become more natural, you can start trying to integrate another running form improvement because you will have more “brain space“ since your other running form correction will have become more automatic.

Use a Queue

A little mantra can help you dial in the best running form during your workouts. 

Here are some examples of proper running form queues:

  • Hips: “Level pelvis” or “balanced hips.”
  • Upright Posture: “Run tall” or “head pulled to the sky.”
  • Gaze: “Eyes forward” or “gaze ahead.”
  • Feet: “Quick steps” or “light feet.”
  • Arm Swing: “Forward and back” or “graze my side.”
  • Hands: “Protect the butterfly” or “loose fists don’t break chips” (potato chips)

Watch Yourself Run

Another good tip to improve your running form is to actually watch yourself run while you are running. The best way to do this is to run on a treadmill in front of a mirror so that you can see your running form in real-time and try to make corrections as you go. 

Then, work on absorbing how these running form corrections actually feel so that you can replicate them when you are running outdoors.

If you don’t have access to a treadmill or mirror, you can ask someone to take a video of you running. Although you won’t be able to make changes in real-time as they capture a video of your running form, you can at least assess how you would like to correct your running form.

Try Running Form Drills

Try running form drills like high knees, bounding, and A-skips to work on your stride.

Strength Train

If you have weaknesses or muscle imbalances that are contributing to running form mistakes or issues, consider working with a physical therapist or make sure that you are strength training to correct these deficits.

To learn more about some of the best strength training exercises for runners, check out our article here.

RELATED: Building Your Strength Base: How the Base Building Applies and off the Trails

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