Eighty percent of us land on our heels when running, which is said to be a less than ideal way to land; but if it ain't broke, don’t fix it. If you are running well and without injury, then there is no need to change your style.
If, on the other hand, you keep getting injured or feel like you have reached a running plateau, it could be time to try a different style of running. Experimenting with different approaches in warm-ups and cool-downs or as drills can help to strengthen muscles you didn’t know were weak, without compromising your natural gait.
If you do decide to try a new style, be gentle and build slowly. For example, try 10 to 15 times 50m intervals on grass as part of a warm up or cool down. Below are four of the best established running styles.
See which you prefer, try them out and let us know how you get on. To run well you need good posture and there are some basic tips - look up, don’t over stride, let your arms relax at 90 degrees - that will help you run with good form and be a faster, fluid, more economical runner.
The pose method of running was developed by Dr Nicholas Romanov and first practiced in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. In common with barefoot running it focuses on forefoot running as a technique and uses gravity as the primary force for movement instead of muscular energy.
According to Dr Romanov all elite runners naturally run this way. It takes practice to learn the pose technique and its main characteristics are: an S-like body position with slightly bent knees; a forward lean from the ankles to employ gravity and work with it not against it; pulling or lifting feet up under the hip not behind the buttocks; and the ball of foot landing under your body (your GCM – General Centre of Mass).
Chi, means energy or life source and comes from Chinese principles and lifestyles. Chi running is based on the on the same mindful principles and orientation as Yoga, Pilates, and T'ai Chi. The cornerstones of Chi Running are postural alignment and relaxation.
The technique includes: landing with a mid-foot strike; using a 'gravity-assisted' forward lean; and engaging core strength for propulsion rather than leg strength.
OK there are obvious pitfalls with this one. But backward running has become a big hit with events taking place worldwide. There’s a zealous feel amongst those who practice it, but if you don’t want to embrace it as a 'movement', you can still enjoy the benefits: less pressure on the joints (knee, ankle and lower back), burning more calories than forward running and according to a South African study improved cardiovascular fitness.
It also provides welcome to relief to the muscles that take you forward running and gives the body a good balance, working the glutes and the hamstrings hard.
Well-known research by Dr Daniel Lieberman from Harvard University found that barefoot runners are at less risk of injury than shod runners who tend to be heel strikers (and make up the majority of runners).
Barefoot running puts you in touch with the terrain, and your feet flex and react as nature intended. If you include barefoot running drills on grass as part of your training, you’ll improve your ankle and calf strength and overall efficiency as a runner.
Obviously a big pitfall to this type of running are the hazards beneath the pads of your feet. But in recent years we’ve witnessed a barefoot revolution, with the emergence of minimalist shoes, such as Vibram Five Fingers, with solid soles but no surplus cushioning. Another pitfall is that running barefoot can cause achy calves and sore shins. Check out our 10 barefoot running tips from the guru of barefoot running Ken Bob Saxton.