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The best way to run

By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Running - what could be simpler? Put one foot in front of the other as fast as you can and repeat. In some respects that's true but if you want to run better and run without risking injury you need to adopt a good running technique.

If you go to any running club or watch people in a race there's a massive variation of running styles. Some people shuffle with their arms pinned to their sides, others seem to take big leaps with their upper body almost rotating from side to side. Even world champions have their own unique style, look at Paula Radcliffe with her inimitable bobbing head - that doesn't seem to have held her back.

"Very good runners have different styles," says David James, Professor of Exercise Science at the University of Gloucestershire. "It's because the mechanics of running are different among individuals because of their different anatomy and the speed at which they run."

Running style is set

So naturally you may have your own individual way of running.

"Biomechanical studies suggest that the human body intuitively selects a stride length, and a normal running motion is heelstrike, mid-phase and then toe off, but it's different with different runners," says Professor James.

There's no reason why you can't change your technique and style. In other sports you'd think nothing of spending hours perfecting a golf swing or practising penalty kicks. So why not work on your running form?

Here are 8 expert tips for the right way to run:

1. Posture

Take a look at your posture.

"Run tall with high hips and a slight forward lean from the ankle so it feels like you are falling forwards into the next stride," is the advice from Nick Anderson, RunningBug's head coach.

Running trainer Karen Weir agrees, describing running as "controlled falling, where a good core is important."

2. Lighten up and strike light

Don't plod with feet like lead. "I use the Up and Light mantra," says Nick. "Imagine you are running on clouds."

Karen, who's created the website RunwithKaren, says, "If you land too heavily the impact is such that you will go up, it's Newtonian physics, you don't want to go up you want to go forward."

A study in 2012 of 52 cross country runners found that those who run with heavier heelstrikes had more repetitive stress injuries than those who mostly strike the ground with their forefoot.

3. Speed up your cadence

Your running cadence is the number of times your foot strikes the ground per minute.

Karen recommends a cadence of ideally 170-180 that's about 3 strides per second. Nick suggests 180.

"It's proven in research that upping your cadence has the biggest effect on improving your running. It also reduces impact to your joints as you don't land so heavily," says Karen.

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