Chances are your stride doesn’t look like that of Galen Rupp, the American distance runner who recently won the Prague Marathon in 2:06—and that’s OK, because for the purposes of the layperson, running is running, right? One foot in front of the other, pumping opposing knees and arms to cover ground as quickly as our hearts and lungs can handle is how most of us understand it. Running efficiency typically isn’t part of the discussion.
But science tells us it should be. A 2016 Journal of Sports Sciences study of elite Kenyan distance runners found the athletes’ ground contact times were about 10 percent shorter than times previously recorded for other elite runners, which coincided with a 9 percent lower oxygen cost for the Kenyans. A Gait & Posture study the same year analyzed the postures of elite and recreational runners and discovered that while untrained runners tend to increase the inclination (forward lean) of their upper backs as they run faster, trained runners’ thoraxes remain upright.
So there are indications that running technique matters, and there’s scads of advice around the internet on what to do about subpar form, including running barefoot, increasing your cadence, resistance training, and more. That’s a lot to think about, but Dr. Nicholas Romanov, whose research on runners spans four decades, wants you to consider this: falling forward, as you did as a toddler learning to walk, is the most important facet of running technique. You had it down by age three. With the help of Romanov and his student, running coach Valerie Hunt, let’s break down the “fall” to return your technique to the biomechanics nature intended.