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10 Tips for Proper Running Form

Advice on How to Run Properly


Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Improving your running form can help you run faster, more efficiently, and with less stress on your body and reduced risk of injury. Follow these tips to work on perfecting your running form.

Look Ahead

An African American man running in Portland Oregon.
Jordan Siemens/Iconica/Getty Images
Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. Don't stare at your feet. Not only is this proper running form, but it's also a safer way to run because you can see what's coming and avoid falling.

More: Tips for Running Safely

Land Midfoot

Don't be a toe runner or a heel-striker. If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight or fatigue quickly and you may develop shin pain. Landing on your heels means you have overstrided and you're braking, which wastes energy and may cause injury. Try to land on the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes.

More: Which Part of my Foot Should I Land On?

Keep your feet pointed straight ahead.

Make sure your toes are pointed in the direction you want to go. Running with your feet pointed in or out could lead to running injuries.

Keep hands at your waist.

Try to keep your hands at waist level, right about where they might lightly brush your hip. Your arms should be at a 90 degree angle. Some beginners have a tendency to hold their hands way up by their chest, especially as they get tired. You may actually get even more tired by holding your arms that way and you'll start to feel tightness and tension in your shoulders and neck.

Relax your hands.

As you run, keep your arms and hands as relaxed as possible. You can gently cup your hands, as if you are holding an egg and you don't want to break it. Don't clench your fists because it can lead to tightness in the arms, shoulders, and neck.
More: How to Avoid Tension While Running

Check your posture.

Keep your posture straight and erect. Your head should be up, your back straight, and shoulders level. Keep your shoulders under your ears and maintain a neutral pelvis. Make sure you're not leaning forward or back at your waist, which some runners do as they get fatigued. Check your posture once in a while. When you're tired at the end of your run, it's common to slump over a little, which can lead to neck, shoulder, and lower-back pain. When you feel yourself slouching, poke your chest out.

Relax your shoulders, too.

Your shoulders should be relaxed and square or facing forward, not hunched over. Rounding the shoulders too far forward tends to tighten the chest and restrict breathing.

Rotate arms from the shoulder.

Your arms should swing back and forth from your shoulder joint, not your elbow joint. Think of your arm as a pendulum, swinging back and forth at your shoulder.

Don't bounce.

Try to keep your stride low to the ground and focus on quick stride turnover. Too much up-and-down movement is wasted energy and can be hard on your lower body. Take short, light steps, as if you're stepping on hot coals. The higher you lift yourself off the ground, the greater the shock you have to absorb when landing and the faster your legs will fatigue.

More: How Do I Avoid Bouncing When I Run?

Keep your arms at your side.

Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. If your arms cross over your chest, you're more likely to slouch, which means you're not breathing efficiently. Imagine a vertical line splitting your body in half -- your hands should not cross it.

Video - Proper Running Form: Watch this video to see what your running form should look like.

More: Absolute Beginners' Guide to Running
14 Things Every New Runner Should Know
17 Commonly-Asked Questions About Learning to Run
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