Good posture when running can not only help you stay injury free but can help you run faster and for longer too.

In this post we outline the key principles that will help you to fine tune your running posture and reap the benefits.

There are two things to keep in mind here. The first is that some of the best athletes in the world have less than optimal running postures and still perform at a high level with great success.

Secondly, the principles outlined here will vary slightly depending on the type of event you are performing. Here, our focus is on long distance running. The posture required for a long distance runner or triathlete varies to that required by a sprinter.

Arms and Shoulders: “Thomas the tank engine arms”

When you run, your arms should be positioned comfortably at your side with your shoulder muscles relaxed. Many people run with too much tension through their shoulders and end up with their shoulders up near their ears. Too much tension is counter productive and wastes energy. If you end up with shoulder or neck pain after running, this could be why.

Ideally, your elbow should be bent to approximately 90degrees, with your arms driving forward and backwards in a straight line. Your elbow should travel as far back as your hips and your hands will move as high as your chin. Don’t waste precious energy by letting your hands drop below the level of your waist or by letting your arm travel across the midline of your body.

Your hands should be relaxed or very gently clenched. Too much tension is counterproductive to your efficiency. Running with your fingers nearly straight can help too, think about your hands as two blades slicing through the air.

You can see how this athlete drives his elbow backwards at a 90 degree angle to generate extra propulsion. Head and torso facing straight ahead. Foot directly below his knee even with a long stride.

You can see how this athlete drives his elbow backwards at a 90 degree angle to generate extra propulsion. Head and torso facing straight ahead. Foot directly below his knee even with a long stride.

When you come to a hill, pump your arms forward and back to gain extra propulsion and help out your legs. I find it helpful to think of “Thomas the tank engine” steaming along.  Usually, the faster your arms are going, the faster your legs are too.

Torso: “Run tall my friend”

To some degree, your head establishes the position of your torso. By keeping your head looking directly forward, toward the horizon, your body stays upright and not folded over. This opens up your lungs, allowing you to get bigger more powerful breaths in. It also means you can achieve a more efficient stride because your leg muscles are at their optimal length to generate power.

Overall, you should feel comfortably upright, with your chest projecting forwards, and your bottom tucked under. There should be minimal rotation through your torso and a slight overall forward lean from your ankles to your head of roughly 10 degrees. Minimising rotation minimises wasted energy. A slight overall lean forwards means your whole body is benefiting from slightly falling forwards as you run, giving you extra propulsion and a slight speed boost.

A simple technique you can try to achieve a more upright posture is to imagine that you are being gently stretched upward by a string attached to the top of your head. If you still find it a real struggle to stay tall through your torso, the problem could be due to weakness in your core muscles. This can be corrected with running specific core exercises by a physiotherapist.

Hips, Pelvis and Legs

Optimal hip and pelvis position allows your leg muscles to work effectively and efficiently. Many people are very tight through the muscles at the front of their thighs and so when they run it looks like their bottom is sticking out.  Ideally, your bottom should stay tucked under as you run and you should form a straight line from your ankles up to your neck. Your stride should be short enough that your foot lands directly under your knee and not out in front of you. Your knee should be slightly bent on impact and when you land it is nice and quiet.

Good posture in action. Look at the foot position, lean forward and elbow drive

Good posture in action. Look at the foot position, lean forward and elbow drive

Conclusion

Next time you go running, think:

  • Run tall
  • Chest up
  • Head looking at the horizon
  • Relaxed shoulders
  • Light stride

Achieving an optimum posture when running can greatly improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury.

By Rob Satchell,

Physiotherapist at Coast Allied Health

Rob practices from the Vincentia and Culburra Beach clinics.

www.coastalliedhealth.com.au