How to Run

by | Aug 2, 2018 | Performance Blog

ONSIDE ACADEMY / adam manuel

Running Form 101

A month into my time here at Onside I’ve noticed a pretty common theme; people don’t love running.  It’s totally understandable. I was a track athlete for five years in university and always dreaded Sunday morning long runs with the team.  I’m not trying to turn everyone into a runner, or say that running is the most fun thing in the world, but I want to help you run faster, further, and healthier with some simple technique tips.

Running is a very simple concept; you apply force on the ground, and in return, the ground applies that force back and sends you forward.  That’s it, just physics.  The more force we apply, the faster we go.  Unfortunately, applying more force usually requires more energy which tires you out faster. That’s not ideal when the workout has 800m runs  involved.  So how can we increase that force without a drastic increase in effort?  Running economy!  Sounders et al. defined running economy as the energy demand for a given velocity of submaximal running.  If you can eliminate excessive movements and critique minor flaws in your form, you can reduce the energy needed to run certain distances, thus making the run feel easier.  I’ll break down some common issues I see with form, then give you some suggestions and tips on how to improve your running economy.


Photo cred: Kintec

one step at a time

We’ll start at stage one, breaking down the full running gait cycle. The running gait cycle is broken into two main components, the stance phase when the foot in question is on the ground, and the swing phase, when the foot is not on the ground.  These components can be further broken down into the absorption and propulsion phases and the initial swing and terminal swing phases.

In my opinion, the easiest phases, and the most important phases to change and correct are the breaking or absorption phase, and the terminal swing phase.  First I will talk about how to improve your breaking phase.  This is where the oh-so common phase “heel striking” comes into play.  Heel striking is a result of over striding, which is essentially making your stride longer than it needs to be. This makes your breaking phase longer, and applies more forces on your body.  It is much more efficient to strike the ground with your midfoot or forefoot.  My advice for eliminating heel striking would be to avoid kicking your foot out in front of you during your terminal swing phase and attacking the ground with your foot (don’t just let your foot slap down onto the ground but rather consciously force your foot to make contact with the ground).  Your shin should be making an angle of ∼5.5° (Williams and Cavanagh) with the ground when your foot makes contact.  In other words, your foot should be coming down almost right underneath your knee, and your midfoot or forefoot should be making the initial contact with the ground, not your heel.

In the terminal swing phase, the thing that I stress the most is knee drive.  If you drive the knee up and forwards all you have to do is snap your foot back down and it should be landing right where it needs to be.  Having a good knee drive will reduce the chances of over striding and help you land in a good position to explode forward once again.  When your foot makes contact with the ground, your foot should not be out in front of your knee, but rather right underneath it.  If you lead every stride with your knee you should notice an increase in speed and a smoothing out of your running form (it may take a while to get used to the new form).

Before you run away

I’m not telling you the way you are running is bad, and that it needs to change. But, if you are looking to improve your running times and endurance, some of these tips may prove helpful.

A recap of some quick tips to make running easier:

  • Try not to heel strike, rather land on your midfoot or
  • Attack the ground, don’t just let your foot slap down.
  • Have a good knee drive, lead each stride with your knee and not your foot.
  • Enjoy yourself, take in what is going on around you and appreciate where you are.
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Adam Manuel

Adam grew up playing a variety of team sports, a major one being basketball. After accepting the fact that he just wasn’t tall enough to move onto the next level, Adam began his career in track and field where he found his true calling. Specializing in the 600m and 800m races, Adam ran for Dalhousie University where he was a 3 time 1st team AUS all-star and graduated with a BSc in Kinesiology. Adam is excited to pass on the knowledge and experience he gained as an athlete and Kinesiology student to both athletes and people looking to improve their fitness.
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Office: (902) 404 – 5647
110 Chain Lake Dr. #3D, Halifax, NS
B3S 1A9

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OnSide Performance Centre
Office: (902) 404 – 5647
110 Chain Lake Dr., Unit 3D
Halifax, NS
B3S 1A9

Get the latest training tips