8 Steps to Perfect Running Form

by Mike Dawson, DETAILSIllustration by Bryan ChristieIllustration by Bryan Christie

1. The Stride
The length of it dictates where your foot lands. If you come down on your heel, shorten your stride. If you land on just your toes, lengthen your stride.

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2. The Strike
When you land, engage the whole front part of your foot, known as the forefoot. This prevents a body-punishing heel hit and ensures you get maximum liftoff. Note: When runners are told to land on their forefoot, many land on their toes or on the ball under the big toe. Think about landing smack in the middle of your foot.

3. The Step-Down
As your foot touches down, imagine driving it three inches into the ground-it won't hurt. The harder you step down, the faster you'll push off the ground, and the higher you will instinctively, and effortlessly, lift up your opposite knee.

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4. The Takeoff
After you land your leading foot, do not think about raising your same-side knee. Instead, engage your glutes, calves, and quads, which are all designed to push back, not lift up. Imagine gripping the ground and driving your foot behind you, like you're scraping mud off your toes. Do this and your knee will automatically lift back up.

5. The Triple Extension
At the point of takeoff (when your trailing foot leaves the ground), you want what is called triple extension: One leg is bent in front, the other is straight behind; if you snapped a picture of your profile, you'd be able to draw a straight line connecting your shoulder, hip, and ankle.

6. The Posture
Lead with your chest, as if being pulled by a rope connected to your sternum. Avoid leaning forward from the hips. When you do have to lean (on hills, fast tempo), be sure your body is in alignment. Your shoulders should be back but comfortable; your back, straight. In other words, whether going uphill or downhill, lean with your whole body.

7. The Arms
Keep elbows close to your sides. Pump your arms by pushing down and back behind you. At trotting speed, your hand should come up to the level of your belly button and down to the bottom of where your front pocket would be. As your speed increases, so, too, will that swing arc.

8. The Hands
Run with your fists closed, thumbs on top, and palms facing each other. Maintain an easy, loose grip.

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