All I keep talking about is why running form is so important and how it prevents injuries. I’d like to give some background on why I feel so strongly about this and give you some specific ways that it can help you.
Having good running form can benefit you in all sorts of ways. It can help you run faster while exerting less effort. It can help you run at your current pace and become much more efficient, using less energy so you can go farther. But most importantly, having good running form helps you prevent injuries.
This seems to make sense to most people but almost no one can explain why. There are many factors factors, namely:
- People disagree on what “good running form” is
- Many coaches work with entire teams of runners and don’t have time to give their athletes the attention to detail they need
- If you’re currently healthy, it’s easy to assume that you’re running correctly (a.k.a. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”)
- Every runner knows someone (or many people) who just can’t stay healthy (maybe even themselves) but they have no clue why these people keep getting injured
Most People Run Like They Walk
The act of walking takes a coordinated effort from your entire body. You need muscles to move, tendons and ligaments to hold everything together, balance to keep from falling down, and many other things that happen that you don’t actively think about. That’s the key – you don’t think about it. The same is true with running. You don’t think about it.
This is why it’s very hard for some people to change their running form. They’ve been running a particular way their entire lives, and they have terrible habits ingrained into their form. Think about it this way – people walk with a heel to toe foot strike. You land on your heel and roll forward onto your toes, eventually pushing forward into your next step. That’s how you learned to walk. You’ve walked that way your entire life. If someone suddenly told you that you “walk wrong”, you’d probably roll your eyes.
This is Why Good Running Form Helps Prevent Injuries
Running is similar to walking. You learn to run a certain way and it becomes ingrained in your muscle memory. The problem is this – most people run like they walk. Why? Because most running shoes are built to encourage the same heel-to-toe motion that happens when you walk. They have raised heels filled with some padding and are designed to cushion the force of each step. This is a good idea – in theory. But the problem is, it encourages you to run like you walk.
Try walking as fast as you can. Not easy, is it? Push off a little more you end up jogging and eventually running. As you do this, feel your heel strike the ground each time. The force and vibration from each foot strike runs through your feet, legs, torso and all the way through your head. For many people, simply acknowledging these senses serves as a wake up call. Because you’ve been running without active thought, you probably haven’t even realized how much force you’ve been running with.
Correcting your running form will reduce that force. It’s just simple math. Reducing that force over the thousands and thousands of steps you take will make it much more likely you stay injury free. It will help prevent you from getting injuries related to the stress you inflict on your body. This includes stress fractures, shin splints, and various problems with your arches, metatarsals and feet. It even helps eliminate less obvious aches and pains, like stiff shoulders and lower back pain.
To recap, you’ll reduce the stress on your body and reduce or prevent injuries because you’re not “pounding the pavement.” You’ll run faster and more effortlessly. It’s a win-win-win situation.