How to run correctly

Running should be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, right? Anyone can run, but having proper technique can make a huge difference.

Good running technique will help make your runs feel less tiring, reduce your risk of injury and ultimately be more enjoyable.

Mitchell Phillips, director of running experts StrideUK, shares his basic tips to help you run relaxed and efficiently.

Keep your head straight

Look straight ahead of you, about 30 to 40 metres out in front, and avoid looking down at your feet. Looking down will create tension in your neck and shoulders. Keep your jaw and neck relaxed.

Don't hunch your shoulders

Your shoulders should be back and down. Keep them relaxed and avoid tensing them. Don't hunch over as this restricts breathing, allowing less oxygen to get to the muscles.

Keep your hands relaxed

Your hands should be relaxed, but don’t let them flop. Tight hands can cause tension all the way up to the back and shoulders.

Keep your arms at 90 degrees

Your arms should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Try to swing them forward and back, not across your body. The arm movement helps to propel you forward, so swinging them sideways is a waste of energy.

Lean forward while running

Don’t bend forward or backward from the waist as this places pressure on the hips. Some experts advise running in an upright position, but Phillips believes using your body weight to lean forward a bit while running can reduce heel strike and help you land on the middle of your foot.

Keep your hips stable

Your hips should remain stable and forward-facing. Don’t stick your bottom out or rock your hips from side to side. Keeping this position in your hips can help prevent low back and hip pain.

Don't lift your knees too high

Land with a slight bend in the knee. This helps to absorb the impact of running on hard surfaces. Don’t lift your knees too high and avoid bouncing up and down. Your knees should be lifting forwards rather than upwards.

Aim for a mid-foot strike

Landing on the middle of your foot is the safest way to land for most recreational runners. Avoid striking the ground with your heel or your forefoot first. Your foot should land below your hips – not out in front of you.

Don't strike the ground heavily

Aim for short light steps. Good running is light and quiet. Whatever your weight, your feet should not slap loudly as they hit the ground. Light steps are more efficient and cause less stress to the body.

Breathe deeply and rhythmically

Whether you breathe through your nose or mouth, try to breathe deeply and rhythmically. Avoid shallow and quick breaths. Try to aim for one breath for every two strides, but don’t be afraid to try longer breathing.

Page last reviewed: 19/10/2014

Next review due: 19/10/2016


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The 10 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

toftsie said on 23 October 2015

i was very concerned about this - i will try to run midfoot.

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Paul72new said on 19 September 2015

Is looking straight ahead and not looking down at your feet always the best advice? If the ground is uneven, keeping an eye on where you are treading could help avoid an ankle injury.

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HappyFeet180 said on 11 February 2015

This is pretty decent advice with good coaching tips.

One thing I think is missing is advice on the correct cadence or foot strike rhythm. The cadence should be between 170–190 bpm (about 3 steps per second). This might seem faster than 'normal' but the right cadence is important for two main reasons:
the first is it will avoid over striding (the cause of many lower extremity issues) and encourage landing underneath your body (on the mid-foot – or more specifically the ball of the foot, then a heel kiss with the big toe engaged and finailly leaving off the big toe) like the advice suggests. It's a lot easier with a fast rhythm to not overstride.
The second reason is running with that cadence will recruit tendons and utilise your more effecient elastic energy as opposed to the slow and sticky rhythm associated with jogging that uses more expensive muscular energy.
The caveat and warning to this however is that being able to run in this fashion does require skill and strength and it's likely that most Westerners lack either through a lifetime of wearing shoes and sitting on chairs. That's why being barefoot to build up strength, practicing the deep 'campfire' squat often to increase flexibility and help good posture, and practicing 90 bpm (half of 180) skipping or straight jumping, is essential before you get into running.

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regordane said on 31 January 2015

The main biomechanical purpose is to absorb much of the rotational momentum generated by the leg motion- this reduces the work the abdominal obliques need to do in stabilising body position, and so aids running efficiency.

Because of this, I think the advice to swing the arms "forward and back , not across your body" is misguided. Allowing some natural cross-body swing makes much more sense.

Read a recent study somewhere, using experienced runners. The basic conclusion was that it didn't matter how they swung their arms, and individual runners varied hugely, but they all ran more efficiently when swinging in their own way.

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Musto said on 23 January 2015

As an experienced runner I've done a lot of reading and research into running style and technique.

The most important thing is that each foot strike should land directly underneath you rather than out in front. This will help avoid injury because the impact is spread throughout the whole musculoskeletal system rather than through the heel/shin/knee/hip which are potential hotspots for injury.

To achieve this it's necessary to lean slightly forward when you run (as shown on the video on this page) but this should be from the ankles rather than from the waist - i.e. a 'whole body lean'.

By landing directly underneath the body rather than out in front it will automatically mean that you're landing more on the ball of the foot rather than on the heal. You don't necessarily need to land perfectly on the ball of the foot however, the main thing is that you land more or less with a 'flat' foot. If your toes point skyward on landing that's not good and means your landing directly on your heal and are likely to be over striding which will inevitably cause injury.

The other important point is relaxation. Your whole body should be relaxed from your neck downwards to allow you to move freely and easily.

Enjoy you're running!

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sazzlepop said on 30 September 2014

I agree, please take it out! I was really surprised when that came off and have been trying to heel strike (gait analysis told me I was striking on the ball/ side of my foot, not good either)

Will be correcting from now on (mid week 8)

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Avie said on 06 September 2014

I'm not a runner but decided to do this as a challenge for myself and then to encourage others to do the same. I was enjoying it until I got to day 3 of week 5 when we had to run for 20 minutes! The end of week 6 was also difficult and week 7 very hard. I feel there's too big a jump in the amount of minutes you have to run and wonder could the plan be re-considered? In week 2, take out that "hint" about heel strike as it will lead to painful shin splints and I also feel Laura should remind us more about breathing (got a stitch), tell us more often how many minutes we've done and finally remind us to stretch at the end. Overall I am very pleased with myself and thank you for C2 5k.

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KERunner said on 27 July 2014

As in the comment below I am also in extreme pain following the 'tip' to run with heel striking ground first given on Week 2 Day 1! Please remove the 'tip' as it is misleading.

I have literally had to stay off my feet all weekend due to excruciating pain in my right heel. Before that I was doing fine just using my natural running gait. Not pleased at all with this advice! I imagine many others are suffering similarly.

I'm going on holiday to France in a week's time - and will be very fed up indeed if I can't walk anywhere!

Please act on this comment.

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Shukor said on 18 December 2013

Hi User86573,

Opinions vary on this point. I think the safest advice is to run in a way that feels natural and comfortable to you. That said, the consensus in the running community is that a mid-foot strike is the safest way to land for most recreational runners.

Thanks for getting in touch,

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User86573 said on 19 November 2013

Flowing your app on apple C25K & on Week 2 day 1 for a tip, states to run landing on your heel first, not ball or side of foot as could cause injury?! Is this correct as NHS website & other sites state to land ball of foot first?! & never heel as high case of injury?!
I've been following this as not a runner & was in tears tonight following making sure ran with heel landing first?!
Please clarify.

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Media last reviewed: 16/08/2013

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