How to Fix Bad Running Form

Good running form

During my marathon, I injured my knee. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know about this injury. I moaned about it a lot. My injury was caused by my bad running form. Like many runners, my glutes are weak and I tend to rotate my knees inward with every stride, especially as I get tired and slower. The problem is obviously exacerbated over long distances…like marathons.

On the advice of my physiotherapist, I diligently did a variety of strength exercises to help fix the problem. But, in addition to the exercises, she also recommended sprinting. Say whaaat?! The cure to my running injury is…more running? Rejoice! I was sceptical but also thrilled. I feared I would be told not to run.  Instead, I was literally prescribed more running. Faster running! It was excellent news.

It turns out that running faster can help correct bad running form. When we sprint, we naturally have better form. We kick our heels up higher and have faster cadence – hallmarks of elite runners. The hypothesis was that if I did more sprinting, I could teach my body what better form felt like, and hopefully, be more likely to replicate this in my regular running routine. If I was running and my knee hurt, I was told to run faster.

It worked! My knee injury was completely recovered in time for my triathlon and I was thrilled. Not to mention I got to look like a turbo badass sprinting around the streets of Islington in the early morning hours.

That said, I still regress into bad habits. Check out this pic from The London Triathlon:

London Triathlon

Eeek! My poor knees.

While every runner’s mechanics are slightly different, nearly every successful distance runner has some common running from characteristics. Here’s a few:

  • Faster cadence: A higher stride rate encourages shorter, more efficient strides. Top runners use a cadence of 90-100 strides per minute
  • Foot strike under your centre of gravity: Over-striding is like a tiny brake with every step. Ideally, your foot strike is in the centre
  • High heel kick: If your heel kick is high, your leg forms a short lever that allows you to move faster, with less energy
  • Slight forward lean: This helps with momentum
  • Backward arm drive: Lots of runners punch forward, but this wastes a lot of energy.
  • Relaxed body: Elite runners look so chilled out when they run. Even though they are going at amazing speeds, they look relaxed – like they are out for an easy run. Did you see Mo Farah’s 10,000 metre race on Friday night? How relaxed did he look doing an incredible 2:40/km pace!! (Also, what an absolute legend! Was absolutely on the edge of my seat during that race!)

I’m sure there are many other characteristics of good form. Obviously, I am not an expert…

Bad running form

I mean… what even is this??

Half the battle is recognizing what you do wrong and consciously trying to correct it.  I’ll probably always have awkward form, but hopefully, I can make enough corrections to stop future running-related knee injuries. Biking is an OK substitute when I’m injured, but I like running better.

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