Good Running Form on Hills and Flats


This article reviews basic running form and technique for running flats and hills, both uphill and downhill. This article also includes links to good videos on form and technique.

Why does good running form and technique matter?


Good running form will help minimize the impact of the ground by using our God-given, biomechanically perfect body. The idea is to run over the ground, not on it. Good running form, and a strong healthy body will increase efficiency by reducing wasted energy. You’ll also go faster by making good use of the potential our body-design affords. Please note that while your coach totally believes that our bodies have been designed by God to run, if you’re returning to the sport at age 47 after a long, very long layoff (see couch potato), it will take time to prepare your body for this sport. Use this information and watch the videos, and begin to prepare your body for what it was intended. In the mean time, while you are preparing your body to run smoothly, simply relax and go slower by decreasing stride-length.


What should good running form look like?

Posture should be erect or nearly so. Slumping forward makes gravity work against you. Head, neck and torso should be erect.

Arm swing

Aim for a 90 degree angle at the elbow, with the hands moving from the hip pocket to mid-chest, back and forth (watch videos). In the arm swing, your hands should not cross the midline of your body. Your arm-swing has a great deal to do with performance, and power. Next time you’re out for a run and are warmed up and have established a rhythm, try pumping your arm swing faster and see what happens. Yes, you’ll go faster.

Are your shoes making noise?

Listen to the sound of your shoes interacting with the ground. Is there excess sounds of shoes dragging or scuffing the ground? Can others 50 yards away hear you coming? Efficiency tends to be more quite than straining. Some noise from running shoes meeting the ground is very is natural.


Rate of Turnover (cadence)

The theoretical optimal number of steps per minute for runners is around 180 steps per minute. This is approximatly 3 steps per second, or 30 steps every 10 seconds. Elite runners run at a stride rate of about 180 steps per minute. Any official long distance race proves this point, and shorter distances too. Count the number of steps an experienced runner touches her foot to the ground while running. This number will be close to 180 per minute, and it doesn't really matter if she runs a 5K or a marathon. In a 5K she might increase to 190 per minute to go faster, but will be closer to 180 in a marathon.


Relax your shoulders and neck. And smile… get rid of the tension. Relax.

Breathing rhythm

Let your oxygen requirements dictate your breathing rhythm, however, you can purposefully breath in and out, in and out, with purpose to train yourself to breath fully. Many people say they have troubles breathing. If so, then breath big and strong and practice, and establish a rhythm.

Improve your core strength, flexibility and balance

Core strength allows for a full range of motion and proper biomechanical and skeletal alignment. This is an important aspect of cross-training. Pilates, lunges, plyometrics, yoga, swimming and  cycling are some of the excellent ways runners and walkers improve their running performance.

VIDEO 4:50 minutes
Correct Running Biomechanics and Adding Speed.
An exceptional video on replacing heel strike with forefoot running. You’ll see that our bodies naturally avoid heel striking. Also a good plug for Vibram Fivefingers.

VIDEO 6:21 minutes
Functional Strength Training: 10 Excellent Exercises for runners and walkers.


Good Running Form on Hills




1. Ideal Form and Posture can be the same for running uphill and flat. Don’t bend forward and let gravity pull you down. As the hill steepens, you’ll use the ball of your foot naturally. Stand tall.
2. Stride Length will shorten naturally as you run uphill. As the hill become more steep, your stride length will shorten still more.
3. Stride Rate = 180 steps per minute, but less is ok.


As you cross over the crest of the hill to the downside, don’t over stride and cause impact on your heel as a braking mechanism. Over striding, and heel-braking are bad things going downhill. Instead, increase your turnover and shorten your stride-length if you want to increase speed and float on the ground while going downhill.


1. Good Posture, and lean slightly forward.
2. Stride Length = short to medium
3. Stride Rate = 180 steps per minute, approx.

VIDEO 3:03 minutes
Proper Form for Uphill and Downhill Running
by Dave Scott, 6-time IRONMAN World Champion

VIDEO 0:31 seconds
An example of good downhill foot plant


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