7 essential running form tips you need to know, according to an expert run coach

a photo of a woman running along a scenic beach front
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Both beginners and seasoned runners can benefit from revisiting the fundamentals of running form. Injuries and subpar performance aren't just caused by skipping a proper runner's warm-ups or overtraining. Subtle flaws in your technique might be holding you back or contributing to pain during and after a run. By making some small adjustments to your form, you can run more efficiently and enjoy a smoother, more comfortable experience.

That's why we've consulted with Nike Run Coach and physiotherapist Emmanuel Ovola, who has shared his top tips to help you run your best. This running expert's tips are designed to refine your technique and make each stride more effective and enjoyable.

In addition to mastering your form, it's important to pair these tips with the right gear. Wearing the best running shoes suited to your foot type and running style can make a significant difference in your comfort and performance.

Emmanuel Ovola
Emmanuel Ovola

Coach Manni is passionate about your journey, as the founder of running community London Select he supports the community to make their best decisions in and out of running shoes. Not only does Manni support you as a run leader, he is always a physiotherapist helping to bring you back from injury and improve your health and wellbeing alongside your running.

7 running form tips you need to know

Ovola tells us that as we use energy and fatigue sets in, our running style naturally changes. This is normal. However, running efficiently and conserving energy will help you run longer and more comfortably. Ultimately, running is about optimizing your energy distribution to maintain your endurance and keep going for as long as possible.

"We know that good running form for you can help you do that," he says, "Running form also helps distribute the forces evenly around your body, by having a good even running form you can reduce the likelihood of injury." 

So, lace up your shoes, take a deep breath, and let's dive into the seven essential running form tips you need to know.

1. Stay tall

"Keep a tall head position, this is key to running and supports a tall spine," notes Ovola, "By looking to the horizon, you can maintain good form."

Maintaining a tall spine ensures that your feet land under your hips, supporting good propulsion and a strong footstrike that does not break in front of you. 

2. Lift those knees forward

Focus on lifting your knee’s forward, this can help increase your cadence smoothly and consistently. Knee’s up and forward are essential, it needs to be both together and not one or the other.

3. Return Your Foot Quickly

Try and return your foot quickly towards your hamstrings or the back of your legs as quickly as you can.

If you can't imagine what this looks like, after pushing off the ground aim to quickly bring your foot up towards the back of your legs to maintain an efficient running motion.

a woman running through the park on a very sunny day

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Let your foot land where it lands

"Rather than fixing your footstrike, allow it to naturally land in a comfortable position," suggests Ovola. "It can sometimes be tempting to want to change your footstrike but this comes with adjusting your cadence. Aim for a shorter stride and quicker steps to boost your cadence," he advises,"Keeping your cadence smooth and steady will keep you from risk of injuries."

5. Keep your ankle tight

Allow for a stiff ankle rather than a stiff foot, keep your ankle tight and kiss the ground with your heel. It will make your calf muscles work harder until it becomes sustainable.

"Instead of having a stiff foot, allow your ankle to remain stiff while keeping it tight and kiss the ground with your heel," advises Ovola. "It will make your calf muscles work harder until it becomes sustainable."

6. Move your arms rhythmically 

"Move your arms rhythmically, coordinating each arm with the opposite leg," recommends Ovola. The arms should stay close to your body, making sure you don’t rotate the body too far.

7. Relax your shoulders

Keep your shoulders relaxed - the aim is to not use any more muscles or strength than you need to. Preserve as much energy as possible for as long as possible, explains Ovola.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.