How to fix the most common running technique faults, so that you can run faster and without injury.

Most triathletes don’t know how to run correctly and efficiently, because they have never been taught. However, some elite running coaches like Alberto Salazar, who coaches 5,000m world champion Mo Farah, preach “good form” before speed and they spend a lot of time working on running technique with their athletes.

Four-time Ironman 70.3 winner Emma-Kate Lidbury spent the first three months of 2011 changing her running technique, and believes it helped her to run strongly at the end of a long race. She now works on her running biomechanics every week.

Yet, most triathletes believe that they need to pay with pain for their love of running. Over 65% of triathletes get injured every year, stopping them from training. Running and running fast is a skill and just like any other skill it can be taught and improved. In this feature I’ll describe some of the most common running faults I see, and give you some tips for improving your technique.

Four Common Running Faults
These are small inefficiencies, but when applied 10,000 times over a 60-minute period, they can cause little injuries which in time can develop into much more serious ones.

1 Shuffling
People often run in a shuffle with hardly any heel lift. As a consequence they over-use their quads and their hip flexors and get tight IT bands.

2 Over-striding
Doing this means that with every step you are applying the brakes to the back of the heel or onto the front of the foot.

3 Useless arms
I often see people running with arms that rotate from side to side (putting pressure on the lower back) or hang by their sides. Neither of these actions help your running economy.

4 Ground time
Many people spend too long on the ground, either through landing heavily or through an inefficient foot strike.


The most efficient running motion is when the body
has very little up and down movement, the arms are relaxed and the legs are cycling with the heel coming up above the knee when it is off the ground.

Feet under hips
Your feet should land under your hips (at your centre of gravity) and not ahead of your body. By landing further ahead you will over stride, causing a braking action.

Land lightly
The most efficient way is to land on the balls of your feet, not on your heel. But this is not for everyone and if you are a heel-toe runner then practise landing lighter on the ground and minimise the time you are on the ground.

Cycle your legs
As your foot leaves the ground, bring your heel up towards your backside to contact the hamstrings (the back of your leg) and your gluteus maximus (bum muscles). This creates a cycling motion that minimises over striding.

Piston arms
Your arms dictate the rhythm of your legs and your balance. They should be bent at the elbow at about 90° and the movement should be backwards and forwards. Your hands should be swinging from your chin to your hip.

These are not instant fixes, but you can change your running technique and run more efficiently through practice. Try incorporating one change at a time and then at the next training session make another change until it becomes fluid.

This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.

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