The gazelle and glider – two distinct styles that could see you running faster

The gazelle and glider running styles have both been employed to Ironman world championship titles. No one is better than the other, but there are differences you can make to better suit your build, strength and competition distance. Below is a distillation of the two running styles coined by Todd Kenyon of ttbikefit.com, where you can find out more about his theories on both gazelles and gliders. Always transition slowly if you’re changing your running technique.

 Triathlon Gazelles and Gliders

FORM – Gazelle

Toe-off is similar for both styles but the strong, high knee drive is the defining characteristic of the gazelle style and gives longer air time with more distance covered between strides and a faster possible velocity. Foot strike is under the centre of gravity for both types.

ENERGY – Gazelle

The gazelle style needs more power due to the force needed for vertical takeoff and the body also has to absorb greater impact forces too, meaning it could cost more in energy expenditure and cause fatigue sooner for the same speed.

FORM – Glider

The glider has a more upright posture with a low knee and throws the foot out in front of the body. Vertical gain is virtually nil, landing coming almost instantly after toe off. But glider cadence has to be higher to maintain the same speed.

ENERGY – Glider

Though back leg positioning is similar in both styles at toe-off, the glider motion requires less vertical force and puts less impact on muscles and joints on landing, but requires more foot cycles for the same speed as a gazelle.

SPEED

The gazelle runner utilises more powerful push-offs and spring from elastic recoil on landing, leading to higher, longer flights and greater distance covered. Gliders’ maximum attainable speed is limited to stride length, but Chrissie Wellington has shown a sub-2:50 marathon is possible.

STRENGTH

Both the gazelle and glider styles need excellent core strength for posture, great hip mobility and strong gluteus muscles to be efficient and safe. If you chose to emulate a different style, make these areas a priority in the gym if you’ve got any weaknesses.

BEST FOR – Gazelle

The gazelle style is probably best for fast runners with good natural body elasticity and athletes whose bodies are resistant to impact injury. Younger and lighter athletes are also good gazelle candidates, with short course racing best suiting the style.

BEST FOR – Glider

The glider style could better suit newer runners and those looking to sustain a slower pace for longer, such as in Ironman events. Older and heavier athletes can benefit from less impact force, while many women or others with compact builds often naturally favour this style.