10/20/2013 03:07 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Running Form: Distilled (Part 3a)

Anatomy of a Stride

Recall from the previous post, "Running Form: Distilled (Part 2)," that by employing a standard by which to frame, evaluate and adjust movement you can begin running right, from the start, just as nature provides. So here in Part 3, as you look more closely at the running stride and explore the accompanying drills, you'll immediately begin recapturing forgotten physical fluencies, and perhaps more of the joy of running, too. Read on and experience it yourself!


Start from the Pose position where you're balanced on (the ball of) one foot while the other is pulled up under your hips. Picture this as arranging the lower body in a closed-top, figure-four position (4), with the upper body resting vertically above.

This "Pose" is that singular point in space and time that separates the previous stride from the next. It is where the centers of gravity of the body and swing leg are in line with support, the ball of the foot. Ideally, this occurs at mid stance. But, whether at mid stance or slightly beyond, the next component of continuing running -- the Fall -- cannot happen until the the Pose is reached. This isn't my opinion, nor is it Romanov's creation; rather, it's the laws of physics that make it so. Nature sets the standard.

So from here, in this Pose position, you stand on the precipice, ready to give yourself to gravity and fall forward at 9.8m/s 2 into the next stride, and the next...

Pose Position | Figure 4

Pose Position | Figure 4

* Experience it yourself: Get the feeling for the running Pose. Maybe do a few single leg quarter squats. Bounce up and down a bit. Do all this barefooted and feel support. Lean forward and back, exploring balance and imbalance. Notice where support begins to disappear.

It's important to know that only by initially touching down on the ball of the foot are you able to access all the available leverage and elastic properties as you gently load your biomechanical spring system at mid stance. The first force plate graph is revealing. The running Pose occurs at the peak of the curve.

Force Plate 1 | Gentle Forefoot Touchdown

Force Plate | Gentle Forefoot Touchdown

In contrast, by crashing down on the heel or a so-called mid foot you forfeit the soft and safe loading of your natural spring and impose an oblique impact to a system ill designed to receive it. (Jump rope on your heels and flat footed to drive this point home.) But, in running you don't feel it so much because even the thinest of soled shoes can attenuate enough local pain to allow the error to persist. Still, the harsh impact of 2 to 3 times bodyweight evidenced by the second force plate graph is being hammered into the body, stride after stride. With heel striking typical of most runners, is it any wonder that injury is so prevalent?

Force Plate | Harsh Heel Strike

Force Plate 2 | Harsh Heel Strike

Take the next step forward in your understanding of running in "Running Form: Distilled (Part 3b)."

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