Form 101: Leg Movements
This segment focuses on elements of the leg movement that lengthen the running stride and increase turnover for faster running, and that promote comfortable, injury-free running.
- Take off and land on the midfoot or the balls of the feet. Avoid landing flat-footed, on the heels, or way up on the tiptoes.
- Run lightly on the feet, almost springy, and as quietly as possible. Avoiding pounding or plodding.
- Land with the foot and knee pointed in the same direction the body is traveling.
- Avoid leg collapse, the sinking of the hips and knees as the feet strike the ground. The head and hips should stay relatively level over the course of the stride.
- Actively paw the ground upon landing and push off quickly with each step. Avoid scuffing the feet or having passive landings.
- Extend the ankle, knee, and hip joints upon take-off.
- Lift the foot toward the butt quickly after pushing off the ground.
- Drive the knees forward and upward as the legs swing forward. This does not mean to lift the knee straight up – the ideal knee lift feels more like driving the knee forward.
- Pull the toes toward the shins (also known as dorsiflexing the ankle) as the leg swings forward and prepares to land. When the foot is under the knee the foot should be parallel to the ground.
- Choose a stride length that feels natural and comfortable. Ideally, the feet should land directly beneath the hips or as close to it as possible. Avoid under-striding or taking short choppy steps, and avoid over-striding where the foot lands well in front of the body.
- The components of a longer and faster stride will be exaggerated when sprinting as compared to distance running. Distance runners still want to develop the capacity to run faster, but they need to balance speed with endurance.
- The best way to safely increase stride length and stride rate is by focusing on specific elements of the stride outlined above.
- Look at the activities featured in A Running Start for exercises that will help runners incorporate these essentials into their running stride.