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Improve Your Running Form, Improve Your Pace.

Written by:

Scott Miller, PT, MS, SCS

Armor Physical Therapy

Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist

One of the most commonly observed faults that runners work hard to improve is heel striking.   Heel striking not only can impact your performance but is closely linked with many over-use injuries that plague the running athlete.   It sometimes is not just as simple as...just stop heel striking and land on your midfoot!   There are a number of different techniques out there to help transition someone from heel to midfoot striking, namely cadence manipulation.   Cadence manipulation is simply trying to increase your turnover rate to effectively shorten your stride length to place you in a more ideal landing position.   The theoretical ideal cadence or steps per minute is 180.  However, based on some excellent research out of Wisconsin, this particular study found that if you simply take a runner's default (or inherent) cadence and increase between 5-10%, this significantly reduces the risk of injury and transitions a runner to more of midfoot strike.

Based on this approach, it is important to first take a step back and determine how we swing our arms.  With running, our arms and legs will always be in sync with each other.   So, if your arm swing is inefficient or improper, you will be frustrated with trying to improve your cadence and may not achieve the desired results.  Years ago, I coined the phrase "Run with your Arms!".   If we focus on what are arms are doing and "clean up" our arm swing, then your feet will fall into place optimizing your running form.    A simple drill to work on is called an arm swing drill.   While in front of mirror, simply practice keeping your elbows bent at 90 deg., driving through your shoulders with a "hips to chest" movement pattern.  Avoid winging your elbow or crossing midline with your hands.   By working on this drill on a daily basis doing 60-second intervals, we can start to reintegrate a more efficient arm swing and have more success with transitioning to a more ideal midfoot strike position.  

Ultimately, you will run faster with less effort and less likely to experience overuse injuries.  Give it a try, and will see you at the finish line!

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