Running Form Analysis! How to analyse your own running form
I’ve been thinking about writing an article analysing my own running for a while and delayed it for a couple of reasons. I felt I perhaps didn’t know enough about physiology and the science of running to do the article justice and I also felt it was perhaps a bit self-indulgent. I mean, who cares what I think of my own running form, really?!
But then I kept looking at other people running (I do this a lot and not in a weird way) and my curiosity heightened about running form and why we can identify people purely by how they run; how people can run in so many different ways and how, to be honest, I can be a bit judgemental about other people’s running form (I keep my thoughts to myself most of the time). So then, I thought it was high time I took a look in the mirror.
I’ve decided to try to deconstruct my own running form in an attempt to improve, but also to give a more general insight into things you might want to consider about your own running form. At this point, I want to put in a disclaimer that whilst I am running–obsessed and read A LOT about running, I don’t have a University degree in Sport Science. So, I’m going on my own observations and opinions, which are not necessarily based on scientific research, but do represent my knowledge of how I run, what I notice in the images in front of me, and what I feel I might need to work on.
August 2013 – Jagermeister 10k (10k time of 39:24)
I’d not run much in the preceding two weeks due to a calf strain. This represents the only injury I have suffered during my running history. So, that perhaps explains the smile on my face in some of these images – I’m so pleased to be running injury-free and running in this race when I really didn’t think I was going to be able to do so.
What strikes me first is how skinny I look in these images. There is little muscle definition in my quads or my upper body. My arms look like chicken wings in how wide my elbows are from my body too. I also notice that my planted foot doesn’t seem to be landing straight, facing in the direction I am heading; instead, my foot seems to be turning out at a 30 degree angle from straight on. Surely this isn’t a good thing for my knee or hip joints?!
In the two images on the home straight, I do remember really trying to sprint at this point, aiming to dip under 40 minutes for the 10k and wanting to beat the guy you can see behind me – purely from my own competitive point of view. He seemed older than me and it gave me a goal to aim for near the end of the race. As I’m not a sprinter and don’t read a lot about sprint technique, I can’t comment authoritatively on what I might be doing right of wrong. However, there does seem to be a lot of rotation in my torso, probably due to my arms swinging across my body with elbows out. In the close-up image, my front foot looks quite high above the ground, which suggests I might be spending too much of my effort moving up and down instead of travelling forward, meaning I could be more efficient in my running. Finally, the further-away image on the home straight shows my foot blatantly turned out (especially when you compare it to the two runners’ feet position in the background).
The final comment I would say on this is that whilst I can’t be sure, the images do suggest that my footstrike is hitting the ground in front of my body, which isn’t great as it would lead to jarring the knee and hip joints and acting as a break on my speed.
September 2014 – Robin Hood Half Marathon (Half Marathon PB of 1:19:12 – https://www.strava.com/activities/200524805)
When I compare these images to the August 2013 ones, it is clear I am at this point a much more relaxed runner. Other than one image here, my upper torso position shows a slight forward lean but is tall as well. In the previous race images, I don’t seem to be as upright in my upper body.
What is also clear from these images is that between the previous race and this one, I’ve started to lift my legs higher. In one image, you can see stronger definition in my calf muscles and I really like the image which shows my legs almost parallel – an indication of good running form (don’t look at the right arm swinging across my body in that image though!).
I also look very skinny again. I think it was after this race that I introduced Matrix Nutrition whey protein shakes to my post-run routine to help me with muscle recovery after running, but also to help maintain a healthy weight. I’d been finding that the running training I was doing meant that I was looking thin and gaunt. It didn’t seem to matter how much I ate, I couldn’t replace the calories I was expending.
Fast forward now to 2017!
A Cross Country race for my club, Long Eaton Running Club, in February 2017
It is instantly obvious that I have increased muscle definition across my body. It seems that I have failed to correct my loose right arm, which still seems to enjoy its own company away from my body, elbow out. However, one thing that is much improved looking at all the images in 2017 is that I am no longer over-rotating with my arm swing. I also think that I am bringing my leg back after footstrike higher and also bringing my trailing leg through quicker. This hints at a faster general pace, which you’d expect after three years of running for someone obsessed with improving! However, I think it shows that I am becoming a better runner; lighter on my feet and more aware of what I should be doing and doing it more regularly.
Worcester Marathon, May 2017
This was my debut marathon! These images are all taken in the final 100 metres of the race. I spent 3 weeks training for it (definitely not long enough!), as you can read about, starting here.
What strikes me about these images is how obviously elated I am to be within touching distance of being able to stop running! This race was a great education in running for me in many ways! You can see what I learned here.
Comparing these images with those from 2013 shows me that I am now running with my head up in a better position. The 2013 images show me looking down too at the ground and now it also looks like I’m bending forward from the hips for a lean in 2013, whereas in 2017, the images show a whole body lean instead, which is better technique from what I’ve read.
Derby 10 mile race, November 2017
Well now. Someone managed to take an image that I just love for the way it is framed, but also because my running form looks pretty good in it too!
The image was taken with about 50 metres to go to the finish line when I knew I was going to reach my goal of finishing the 10 mile race in under an hour (59:20 in the end!).
In the image, running below the banner of ‘Using the power of sport to change lives,’ I am looking straight ahead. My arms seem to be pumping in line with my body rather than across my body and my whole body is showing a slight forward lean. My front leg knee lift looks good as it is about to extend forwards and my toe-off on my back leg shows my feet facing forwards, pointing in the direction of travel. I seem to be ‘running tall’ here.
So, there’s my analysis of how my running form has (hopefully) improved over the last four years. I would be really interested in your views on how accurate or otherwise you feel my observations have been and if you’ve spotted anything that I’ve overlooked, please let me know!
As a checklist for your own running form, you can focus on the following aspects, working from head to toe:
- Head: Where are you looking? Is your head straight or looking down?
- Shoulders: How relaxed do you look? Are your shoulders hunched?
- Arms: Are you swinging your arms? If so, how much? Are they swinging straight or across the body?
- Torso: Are you over-rotating from side to side? Do you look straight and tall, or bent over (either to one side looking front-on, or like an elderly person when looking side-on)?
- Hips: Are they straight or do they look like you’re tilting them back or forwards?
- Legs: Where are you striking the ground with each foot (Ideally, you should be bearing most of your body weight when your ankle joint is over the top of your hips)? What part of your foot makes contact with the ground first? How far back do your legs swing after contact with the ground? How high do your knees go when prepared to move through for the next stride? When you’re at a midpoint in your stride, do your legs look parallel?
- Feet: What direction do your feet point when in contact with the ground?
It is also helpful to compare images taken of you / the ‘subject’ of the analysis from both side-on and front on too.
Clearly, moving footage will also be very helpful. You can see video footage of me running on my YouTube channel, here.
Finally, the voting in the Running Awards has been extended to the 6th December! My blog has been nominated in The Running Awards in the Blog category. I would love it if you could find two minutes to vote for me! You can vote here and find the Blog category by going to Vote > Publications & Online > Blog > Tim’s Running World. If you do vote for me, thank you so much!!