Improve Your Walking or Running Form in 3 Steps

A Healthier Michigan

| 3 min read

An older couple jogs in the park.
Do you walk or run as part of your fitness regimen? It might surprise you to learn that some simple tweaks to your form could help you go farther and faster while preventing injuries and pain.
Good Form Running and Good Form Walking techniques were originally developed by the team at Okemos-based Playmakers and have spread throughout the country. The techniques include three simple, essential steps to keep in mind when you hit the sidewalk, trail or road.
Good form is not just important for athletes. People who are on their feet all day due to their profession can also re-learn the optimal way to walk, making for a marked improvement in their quality of life. Proper technique can preserve the condition of the back, joints and other body parts.
As a core part of their mission, the Playmakers Fitness Foundation works to empower people to adopt and sustain a healthier and more active lifestyle by providing opportunities for people to move more and educational programs that train people to move better. The Good Form techniques are a big part of how they do just that.

Good Form Running

  1. Posture: Elongate your spine and keep your head level, eyes looking forward. Relax your arms to a 90-degree angle at your sides. Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed and use compact arm swings, avoiding crossing the body’s centerline.
  2. Landing: This refers both to where you land on your foot and where your foot lands relative to your body. The goal should be to land on your midfoot and not your heel, while placing the landing underneath your body on a soft, relaxed knee. This eliminates braking and friction created by over-striding, allowing you to be more efficient with fewer injuries. Additionally, taking shorter, quicker steps will also promote a lighter landing. Aim for about 180 steps per minute, or 90 foot strikes per side. To find your cadence, jog for one minute, counting the number of times your right foot hits the ground. You can download a free metronome app on your smartphone to help with this and most Garmin GPS watches can also help you figure out your cadence.
  3. Lean: Achieve the ideal running form by leaning from the ankles without bending at the waist. Keep your weight slightly forward and flex at the ankles. Use gravity to help generate your forward momentum.
If you’re a visual learner, Playmakers has a great video to help you see what good form running looks like.

Good Form Walking

  1. Posture: Walking posture follows the same guidelines as running posture, except arms can be lower than 90 degrees if you’re walking at a slower pace. The key is to keep them compact and relaxed.
  2. Stride: Your goal should be to land on the base of your heel just in front of the arch and as close to underneath your body as possible. With walking, you won’t be able to land directly underneath your body but aim for shorter strides to ensure you land with a soft, relaxed knee that isn’t locked. Cadence can be a helpful tool to improve your stride for walking as well. Most people can aim for a cadence between 120 and 160, depending on your walking pace, to help prevent over-striding and promote a softer, lighter stride.
  3. Lean: Follow the same guidelines for running when it comes to your lean, although note that your body’s forward position will be less pronounced as you’ll be moving at a slower pace.
Watch this Playmakers video to see what good form walking looks like.
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Photo credit: Getty Images

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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