Good Running Form – Where to place your Focus

HomeGeneral TipsGood Running Form – Where to place your Focus

Peter S. Alfino

Go to any race and you will see good runners and those just getting by. I hear often from people, “I’m not a good runner”. Everyone can improve their running by concentrating on a few things.


  • The head should remain neutral and aligned with the spine.
  • The head remains stable and does not sway or bob up and down.
  • The gaze should be about 10 feet ahead. Find your spot and imagine a dot which moves at the same speed as you are traveling. Avoid looking at the horizon as your gaze is too high and obviously if you see your feet your head position has dropped too much.


  • Arms
    • Held at 90 degrees or slightly less.
    • Work indecently of each other and travel back and forth alongside the body. Do not allow your arms to cross over your body. Think of the elbow driving straight back like you are elbowing someone behind you.
    • Drive the legs. The leg turnover follows the arm swing cadence.
    • Drill: 1 armed drill. Run with one arm by your side and the other swinging independently.
  • Hands
    • Relax your hands but do let them flop. No clenched fists (great to self-check during a race).
    • The hands NEVER drop below the waistline. Imagine a glass circle around your waist that would break if your hands hit it.
    • The feet follow the hands. Rotated hands lead to the opposite foot strike. Your hands should remain aligned straight and not rotated in or out.
    • Hands travel from hip towards the nipple. Hands NEVER go behind your waist. When you look at a good runner from behind who is holding arms at 90 degrees and driving the elbow straight back you see a triangle.
  • Shoulders
    • Keep relaxed. Keep your shoulders out of your ears. (great to self-check during a race)
    • Stay level. Do not let them dip from side to side.


  • Should stay aligned and even. Imagine your midsection is the top of a giant bowl filled to the top with water. The goal is to keep the water from not spilling. Proper alignment is key here. The lean comes from the ankles, not the hips.
  • Strong and flexible hips are the key here. Runners always travel in a straight plane so the hips and glutes become weak. Proper drill work and strength work are important. Monster walks, clam shells, theraband work is key here.
  • The Glutes are the key to maintaining good posture.
  • Hard to watch this when you run but if you look at video of yourself your hips should not dip from side to side.
  • Keep the water from spilling!!
  • Hips drive forward.
  • Imagine falling forward. A good drill to do is to place your hands on another person’s shoulders and lean into them. The lean comes from the ankles. Start running as they slowly back away and then step aside. There should be a linear line from the ankles through the hips and shoulder
  • Avoid leaning back with the upper body.



  • Knee lift is key for good running form.
  • The foot and shin should NEVER get in front of your knee.
  • The knee tracks in a straight line and does not dip in or sway outside.
  • The foot lands slightly in front of the hips. This is one of the biggest problems runners face as they try to lengthen the stride too much.
  • The heel comes up to the butt. When the knee comes up to the butt the knee drives forward.
  • Do not Swing the foot forward. (think about this next time you run. Is your foot following the knee or are you throwing your foot forward?
  • The foot should strike mid foot but if you are following proper form the foot will land naturally where it should and you shouldn’t have to think about this.
  • The foot paws back when you strike the ground.
  • Drills to help with proper knee, leg, foot positioning: Butt Kickers, A/B Skips, Straight leg bounding, High Knees, Strides (The key drill), Quick Feet (place your feet together step one foot to the side, bring the other foot to your initial foot, then back to center one foot at a time, then to the other side, slight bend in the knees, work on doing this faster)


  • The goal is 180-200 strides per minute. Strive to count 30 strides for one leg for 20 seconds.
  • When you run, you should be aware of your stride rate as it is the key to fast running. In longer races cadence falls way off and turns to a shuffle. Working on this in practice leads to better awareness during a race.
  • How do you improve stride rate?
    • Shorten your stride
    • Increase arm turnover while marinating proper form
    • Do your drills. Strides, high knees, butt kickers, fast feet all help
    • Always think about good form and turnover. It is better to have faster shorter strides than longer loping strides
    • Be aware of what your rate is and check from time to time when you run. Practice makes permanent so practice right.
    • Eliminate an attitude of indifference towards trying to improve.
    • Do strides at the end of your long run


If you would like a free video analysis of your run send me the following to Pete at Milehighmultisport dot com

Warm up with 1 mile of easy running. Add 4-6 strides of 20-30 seconds

Forward 4 video segments each of 15-20 seconds long from a close range

* Head on
* From behind
* From each side








Written by

Pete Alfino is a level II USAT certified coach and the owner of Mile High Multisport. An accomplished triathlete who has completed 4 Ironman races, he has successfully coached triathletes of all ages and abilities from sprint to Ironman races. You may contact pete at to learn more about the triathlon coaching services he provides via Mile high Multisport.