Pick Up Your Feet And Run Faster

Have you ever thought about what your feet and legs are doing when you run or even walk? Do you lift your feet off the ground, bending your legs at the knee or do you just drag them just above the ground, shuffling, one after the other?

If you have noticed your running form then you have already changed the way you run. If you haven’t now it’s the time to do so.

Watch the video below for a more detailed explanation, but in summary the reasons you should pick up your feet instead of dragging or shuffling:

Reason #1: You will run faster

Your legs are like pendulums. And like any pendulum, a long pendulum will move slower, a shorter one will move faster.

 

Reason #2: You will run more relaxed, lighter on your feet

If you pick your feet without lifting and leading with the knees you will not use the quads as much, thus you run more relaxed and with less effort. The work is done by your hamstrings and only at the start of the lift, after that your hamstrings should relax.

 

Reason #3: Reduce the risk of injuries

First of all if you drag your feet chances are you will trip or slip at some point. Pick up your feet and you reduce those chances, a lot.

Second if you drag your feet chances are you are landing in ahead of your body (instead of underneath), actively landing (driving your feet forward), heel striking and landing with a stiff leg or ankle. All this, in time, may lead to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and then knee pain and back pain. It’s a chain reaction in fact.

So stop shuffling your legs, dragging them behind you and pick them up and bend your knee.

Remember running is a skill of movement, and art. As with anything you want to create, it will be difficult and uncomfortable at the beginning but once you get the hang of it you won’t run anymore, you will glide.

Check out the video below with this particular technical element and also this article Running Technique – Elements Of Effortless Running – Lower Body:

Running Technique – Elements Of Effortless Running – Lower Body

elements of effortless running-blog

Any books you read on running technique which has the potential to reduce the risk of injuries have a few common elements. Each technique or style of running (i.e. Chi Running, Pose Method, Natural Running) has its own particular elements that sets it aside from the others, however they all state that to run with less effort and fewer injuries a runner should:

 

1. Land with the foot underneath the body 

That means DO NOT land ahead of your body because you overstride, break your momentum and increase impact. When you overstride you also have to power up by re-engaging the back muscle chains to start a new stride. More effort, more muscle tension, more impact, higher risk of running injuries.

If you can see your feet when you run (by looking down with your eyes and head, not by bending your whole body) it’s a sign you are probably overstriding, landing heavily in front of your body.

Bouncing up and down too much can be another sign. Usually, if you land under your General Centre of Mass you won’t bounce, you will move smoothly, almost like gliding.

This will also help reduce the rotational forces in the joints which lead to overuse injuries in the ankles, knees, hips, spine.

 

2. Lean the body from the ankles

This is an up-right, slightly forward leaning from the ankles, correctly aligned posture. Let gravity do the work instead of using your muscle strength.

 

3. Strike the ground with a midfoot strike

Another common element is the midfoot strike. If you land under your general centre of mass and use gravity to move forward there is no way you will do a heel strike. You will automatically go into a midfoot-forefoot strike.

That being said make sure you don’t run on your toes. You land on the balls of your feet and then allow the heels to touch the ground slightly. That’s it.

If, when you run, you listen closely you can tell whether you land with the ball of the foot. You will hear a “tap” and then you will feel the heel touching the ground. If you hear a “punding” that’s heavy landing and probably heel striking.

If you think about it pretty much all sports require a midfoot or forefoot body weight distribution: dancing, skiing, martial arts free sparring, even tennis. Look at the footwork in this tennis match, just the first 10 seconds.

 

4. Pick up the feet

Your feet are like pendulums. A long pendulum will move slower, a shorter one will move faster. So stop shuffling your legs, dragging them behind you, instead pick them up and bend your knee. 

5. Aim for optimum cadence 

Running cadence is measured by the number of strides per minute that each leg takes. The optimum running cadence is considered to be 85 to 90 strides per minute. 

If you do all of the above then you can maintain the optimum cadence.

However you have to build up gradually to this cadence if it’s not your normal. Then you keep that cadence all the time and use the lean and picking up your feet to move faster. In Chi Running you also increase the strides to increase speed. But you move faster because you lean more and relax your legs more not because you are using muscle power. You should not put effort to increase your strides, it will happen as you lean more. But first master the lean.