Aoife O’Neill, Outsider’s consultant Chartered Physiotherapist takes us through a few simple steps to improve your running.

Improving your running technique even slightly will help you run faster and for longer, as well as helping to reduce your risk of injury. By making your running technique more efficient you will reduce your feets workload while making the whole experience more enjoyable. Not everyone is blessed with a naturally good technique but we all can improve. Here are my top five tips to help make you a better runner.

1. Foot Placement

When you are running try to land with your foot placed underneath your hip and not too far out in front (called overstriding) or behind your hip. This allows your foot to strike the ground under your centre of mass. This will help the muscles and tendons of the pelvis and legs to absorb forces better.

In order to help you with foot placement, stand stationary with your feet under your hips and FALL FORWARD. At a certain point, gravity will make you put your foot in front of you to prevent a fall and then run forward from there in your natural foot placement. Another tip that might help you with placement is to try to shorten your running stride and see does your foot placement feel better for you.

Running Technique

2. Keep arms relaxed and working

  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and above your hips.
  • Keep your head on your shoulders unless you are at the finish line!
  • Avoid staring at the ground unless you are on uneven surfaces.
  • Avoid hunching forward or sticking your chest out.
  • Swing your arms and shoulders loosely without too much tension.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body and avoid crossing your arms across the middle of your chest.
  • Keep the elbows bent at about 90 degrees and match your arm swing to your speed. At higher speeds, you can allow the elbow to open up on the backswing past 90degrees and bend to about 30 degrees on the forward swing to allow fluidity.
  • Keep your wrist loose, not limp and your fingers relaxed.

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3. Foot strike

According to scientific research, foot placement is MORE important than foot strike patterns in preventing injury so look at point number one first. Regarding foot strike, runners tend to use all parts of their feet to strike the ground with, heel, midfoot and forefoot/toes. Some say midfoot and forefoot striking is advantageous to injury prevention and speed. It is more complicated than that, and heel strikers with good foot placement run at an elite level and keep injury free. So, strike where you strike, but make sure you don’t overstride. If you are a heel striker or a forefoot or toe-striker, aim to include more of your midfoot for a happy medium and see if it feels better.

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4. Knees in line

Keep your knees in line over your feet and under your hips when you run. Your kneecaps need to be in line with the middle of your foot, not falling in towards the middle as you run. Your heels should not be clicking your opposite leg behind. Keep a little bend in your knees and aim to strike the foot on the ground lightly and softly while continuing to run forward.

5. General advice

  • Make changes slowly and avoid extremes like barefoot running unless you have taken good advice and are an experienced runner to start with.
  • Put plenty of variety into your running in terms of speed, length of runs and terrain.
  • Intermix running drills with your regular runs and engage your core muscles.
  • Wear good footwear best suited for your biomechanics, style and goals.
  • Make sure to allow the body time for rest, repair, stretching and recovery and get niggles and running technique checked out by a chartered physiotherapist who is skilled in this area.

Most importantly enjoy!

Aoife O’Neill is an experienced Chartered Physiotherapist with a Masters in Manual Physiotherapy and a Diploma in Psychology. She also is a current international tennis player, ex-triathlete, Pilates teacher, outdoor enthusiast, water lover, and loves sharing her passion for health and lifestyle. She can be reached at and holds her clinics at BodyMed.

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