Knowing the difference between good and bad form makes all the difference, says Nadine Horn.
Inefficient running technique
The head is leaning forward (known as head-chasing). Posture is also bent forwards, away from the centre of gravity. This increases the forces on the muscles and joints, causing energy waste, tension and inefficiency.
The runner is over striding – their foot lands in front of their centre of gravity, increasing strain on muscles and joints. The front leg acts as a braking force, increasing impact on the knees, hips and lower back.
Back leg bother
The further the back leg is away from your centre, the more the body compensates by leaning forward – a less efficient running position. In addition the hamstring of the back leg is working harder to hold the leg in place.
The runner lands on his or her heel, which is inefficient and adds impact to the knee. Shoes with a thickly cushioned heel encourage heel striking. Shoes with less heel drop encourage you to land on your mid foot.
Efficient running technique
The head is right above the centre of gravity. In this aligned posture the runner is in an energetically efficient position and muscles work less against gravity, which reduces stress and tension.
The foot lands with the complete surface, rather than the heel, utilising the full shock absorbing functionality of the foot. The arch absorbs 17% of impact, the Achilles tendon 32%, with both acting as a spring.
The legs are very close together and the rear leg is not far from the centre of gravity. A more upright position means no strain on the hamstrings. The closer the limbs are to the centre of gravity the less energy is wasted.
The foot lands right underneath the centre of gravity – the most efficient position to run in. The knee is bent, turning impact into elastic recoil, decreasing the strain on the knee, hip and lower back.
Team Talk: Starting out
“Don’t assume that focusing on running technique is only for more advanced runners. In fact, the newer you are to the sport, the more worthwhile it is to practise good running, as you won’t have to ‘unlearn’ years of bad habits. Don’t try to do this on your own though – seek help from a physio or specialist running coach to guide you through the changes, step by step.”
Liz Hufton, Triathlon Plus Editor