Tips for Proper Running Form

How “Proper” Running Form Can Make You a Better Runner

To a certain degree, you run how you run. We all ran around playgrounds as kids, and have natural, individual running styles. Yet, if you compare an elite runner’s form to your own, it will likely reveal more than a few differences. 

There’s growing evidence that analyzing your stride can produce significant improvements. A 2017 study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal concluded that running technique explains a lot about why running economy and performance varies. The Journal for Orthopaedic Sports & Physical Therapy (2015) stated how real-time feedback on running form (from a movement specialist or physical therapist) is effective at treating injured runners or addressing potential injury-causing issues. 

So while physiology explains the differences in how we run, knowing how to integrate a few best practices while making adjustments toward ideal running form, outlined below, can make all the difference. Keep these cues in mind to improve your running efficiency, help ward off injuries, and ultimately make you a faster runner.  


The most efficient runners don’t lean too far forward or too far back. 


You want your head to be in line with your shoulders, your hips, your knees, and your feet—and not sticking out too far in front of you or falling back behind you. 

  • To achieve this, think tall. Envision a string running through your body from your feet to the top of your head, with some magical force pulling on the string and keeping you upright. You’ll naturally lean slightly forward while running, but envision keeping your head inline with your body.
  • Keep your gaze 15 or so feet ahead of you, and not looking down at your feet. Aim for a level head (in running, and in life!).

Pelvis and Shoulders

Your pelvis shouldn’t tilt too far backward (where your booty sticks out) or be tucked too far underneath you (rounding your lower back). 

Ideally, your shoulders stay nice and open instead of collapsed and rounded. This helps open your chest for optimal breathing, and helps overall posture stay upright.

  • To achieve good overall posture before your run (or even mid-run), reach overhead with your hands clasped and point your palms toward the sky. This sets, or resets your body into a good running posture.


There’s plenty written on optimal foot strike, much to do with avoiding landing on your heel (heel striking) and aiming to land on your midfoot (midfoot striking). The vast majority of runners only land on their forefoot while at a full sprint.

Heel Striking vs. Midfoot Striking

How and where on your foot that it lands with every step happens naturally, but several studies have shown midfoot striking to be more efficient than heel striking. The issue with landing on your heel is that it takes longer to roll through your foot and toe-off than it does if you land on your midfoot (hence, the difference in efficiency). Landing on your heel can also mean you’re over-striding, which can lead to strains. That said, some runners naturally heel strike and still run without issues.

Long Strides vs. Short

Taking long strides versus short, quick strides is related to where you land with each step, as short strides lend themselves to landing midfoot. Shorter, quicker strides versus longer, slower strides generally lead to more efficient running.

  • To aim for short strides, try increasing your cadence during your run, and picturing landing midfoot. Keeping your footfall underneath your body, and not too far ahead of your body, helps with both. 


How you hold your arms and hands might be an afterthought, but both can make a difference in your stride. In trail running, a wide arm-swing can help with balance. In road running, you want to keep your elbows close to your body, and bent at roughly 90 degrees. You want your arms to swing back and forth within one plane as much as possible, instead of across your body (which is inefficient). And you want your hands slightly open and relaxed.

  • To aim for a smooth arm-swing, bend your elbows so that your arm creates a 90-degree angle. Tuck your elbows close to your body, and drive your elbow backward, then hand forward (trying not to cross over the front of your body). Try this standing in place before your run to create the pattern. Keep shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.
  • To have a relaxed hand, imagine holding a potato chip between your thumb and your first two fingers, or just your thumb and your index finger. Avoid clenching your fist; keep your hands relaxed. (No one needs more tension!)