A good running stride helps to maximize energy efficiency and run stronger and longer.
What do you need to focus on? On cadence, distance, arms, torso, ground contact and landing.
Harmony between body parts improves speed, endurance and reduces fatigue in running.
Akey element of running well is having a good running stride. This is not an aesthetic issue but something more substantial: we often talk to you about athletic efficiency as the best way to make optimal use of your energy. Ultimately it is a matter of applying a principle that is simple in formulation but somewhat less so in practice: use the least amount of energy to accomplish the most effort. Or, in other words, the right amount of resources to achieve the best result, which in running is twofold: running harder and longer.
How to accomplish this? Operating mainly on the number of steps per minute (cadence), distance between each other, arm movement, position of the torso and all parts of the body, ground contact time, and landing on the ground.
In short, there are several aspects to be taken care of, but the beauty is that since they are included in a harmonic system in which the parts must work in accord with each other, one can work on all of them simultaneously.
So let’s see how attention to certain details can make your run faster, longer and, above all, less tiring. Or “just right” strenuous.
1. Steps per minute (cadence)
If you’ve heard that taking between 170 and 180 steps per minute is the right number, you’ve heard right. However, without tying to a particular number (also called“cadence“), it is important here to understand the underlying concept.
The number of steps indirectly indicates the ground contact time (the fewer you take, the longer you left your feet on the ground) and the distance between each step. Now you might think, “But if I do a few it just means my stride is longer, what’s wrong with that?”
Apart from the fact that, if it were true, then proceeding by leaps and bounds would be perfect (no, it is not), why is it better to avoid doing so? We explain this in the next point.
2. Land (possibly) on your forefoot
The more your stride, the more you heel land because body geometry and biomechanics inevitably lead that part to touch the ground first. The result is that your running will be curbed.
Now what? By taking shorter, more frequent steps and possibly landing mid or forefoot, so as to accommodate the distribution of loads that, by the very shape of our foot, are carried from the sole toward the ankle and up the leg so as to be absorbed effectively.
Landing on the heel is not inherently wrong, and there is also the fact that the considerable cushioning in many of today’s running shoes makes it relatively traumatic. In other words, some people land forefoot-first and some heel-first, and the good news is that shoes today adequately protect the latter as well. Which is not to say that forefoot running stresses the body less or does so in a more compliant way.
To take the guesswork out of it, try running barefoot and consider whether it comes so naturally to you to land on your heel: after a few steps the pain will make you realize that the forefoot is better.
3. Relax the upper body
Thinking about running, we focus only on the legs. It is natural and inevitable because they are the ones doing most of the effort. “Much of it,” that’s right, because in fact the whole body is engaged in the athletic gesture, albeit in a collaborative and insubstantial form.
What is meant by “collaborative”? Remember what we were saying earlier about the harmonic system that comes into play during running? For the athletic gesture to be as smooth and efficient as possible, each part of your body must work in concert with the others.
The torso must also play its part, both through the movement of the arms (bending the elbows to 90 degrees and alternating with the legs, meaning that the forward movement of the left leg corresponds to the forward rotation of the right arm and vice versa), and in the position of the shoulders (open, so as to allow the lungs maximum room to expand).
Finally, do not overlook perhaps the most important aspect, which is that the torso should be as relaxed as possible so as to accommodate the movements of the legs without opposing them by contrast. To understand how important this aspect is, imagine running wearing only the top part of a medieval suit of armor. Have you visualized? Now you understand what I mean.
4. Imagine you are dancing
Elegance of athletic gesture generally also indicates efficient and economical running, in the sense, therefore, that it makes intelligent use of energy. Which is not to say that running ungainly is in itself wrong: history is full of athletes who were not beautiful to watch who still ran like trains.
It is equally true that if you put into practice the advice we have given you, your “running form” will be much more graceful and certainly more efficient.
Beyond the exact number of steps per minute and what part of your foot rests on the ground, rely now on pure perception: that of contact with the ground and that of the sounds it makes.
Does it feel like dancing? Do you feel like you weigh like a feather and can almost run on water by how quiet and snappy your movements are? Then there is a good chance that your running stride is correct, that is, you are doing it right.
If, conversely, the sound of your footsteps sounds like hammering given on steel and puffing like a T-Rex then there is much room for improvement.
As we said, it is not that the beauty of your movements is necessary to run well, but it is true that the more beautiful the mechanics of your running movements, the more likely you are to run really well.
Which means you are doing it in the right way to use the energy you have well, and that is without wasting it. In no way.