Excerpted from Run Better: How to Improve Your Running Technique and Prevent Injury by Jean-François Harvey, published by Greystone Books (March 2017). Condensed and reproduced with permission of the publisher.
Running is an art that we can perfect through training. What’s more, just a few simple changes can make a huge difference over time.
Although the advances in exercise science can be applied to running, some people still believe that developing their running technique is pointless and could even increase their risk of injury. They think we all know how to run, that running is a natural activity we all did as children, so we shouldn’t have to do anything to improve our technique.
Others are of the opinion that we are running the wrong way, and that it’s the fault of the so-called modern shoes we wear. In recent years, studies have in fact shown that foot strike can vary dramatically depending on the type of shoes we wear. With advocates calling for a return to a more “natural” way of running, minimalist shoes represent one solution to consider.
Every runner can run better. And do so with greater comfort, speed and control, while having more fun, saving energy and enjoying a more natural movement. This can all be possible mainly by improving one’s running technique. All runners have potential for fixes, whether in their running form, training or biomechanics.
What is the ideal running posture?
To have good posture is to have a body position that is centered spatially and balanced gravitationally. It can be achieved with minimal effort through control of the postural muscles. Having good posture changes your relationship to the environment around you and within your body. It is one of the essential foundations for every runner’s health and performance.
The ideal running posture is the one that promotes the most efficient movement and the most natural, flowing running style while respecting your body as much as possible. Don’t worry if your basic posture looks different from the ideal. You have your own posture, like a body signature. And there’s no reason to change everything overnight.
You can gradually work your way toward the ideal without needing to achieve perfection. There is more than just one good running posture, for the simple reason that human beings are not robots. According to the principles of posturology—the scientific study of posture—and the latest advances in biomechanics, we should be aiming to run tall with a slight forward lean.
When you improve your posture, you’re improving your ability to express yourself not only to the outside world but also within your body. The effects of better posture trickle down to everything you do. Postural exercises can promote a better lengthening of the spinal column by stimulating and strengthening the deep spinal muscles and all the muscles (quads, calves, glutes, etc.) that hold the body up against the force of gravity.