Avoid striking the pavement with your heels—save that for your power walks. “When you walk, you keep one foot in contact with the ground, while running has a moment of weightlessness in the stride,” says Alex Figueroa, a running coach and creator of Priority1 Wellness in Miami Beach. Running with a heel landing can contribute to back and knee pain.
Do Land on the Midsole of Your Foot
Landing on your forefoot (instead of your heels) allows your muscles to catch the weight of your body in flight, reducing the effects of impact on the joints and bones, says Figueroa.
Don’t Use a Long Stride
Leaping forward while you run is inefficient and an energy drain. Instead, stand tall and lean forward, and when you feel like you are going to fall, step forward just enough to catch yourself. This should be the length of your stride. It takes less energy to fall than to reach your foot in front of you.
Do Take Short Effective Strides
Less motion through the joint means less wear and tear and improved efficiency during your runs, says Figueroa. Using a shorter stride reduces the movement within any joint (for running, this means the joints of the ankles, knees, and hips), and less movement means a longer, healthier life for these joints.
Don’t Wear Shoes That Are Too Comfortable
The human body works with one major premise: use it or lose it. If your support is coming from an external source, like your shoes, then the muscles designed to support the framework of the foot (i.e. the arches), will eventually fail to do their job, making the foot weaker and your body more prone to injury.
Do Invest in Barefoot Running Shoes
“When it comes to support, less is more,” says Figueroa. Build up to wearing shoes with minimal support, like NIKE Free or Vibram Five Fingers, to help strengthen and develop the natural muscular support in your foot and ankle. But don’t toss your sneakers just yet – slowly begin by running, one block at a time, with less support to gradually strengthen the muscles in your feet. Developing foot strength can help make everything stronger, including your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back, says Figueroa.
Don’t Run as Hard As You Can
Many runners think if they can run fast, they are running efficiently, which isn’t the case. In fact, Figueroa recommends runners slow down to learn how to run farther, faster. “Slow down and wear a heart rate monitor to train smarter, not harder,” suggests Figueroa. Set your heart rate monitor to keep your running at a desired pace, and then don’t exceed that set pace. Your body will adapt, and then you’ll be able to run more comfortably at this pace, meaning you will be able to run faster without pushing any harder.
Do Work Up to Running Farther, Faster
Build your run one block, or one minute at a time, says Figueroa. Walk between running intervals and recover actively. You can work on speed or form and technique during your “work intervals” and then recover with an easy jog or power walk in between. Interval training can provide you with faster results in the same amount of time.
Don’t Get Stuck on the Odometer
Running three, five or even 26 miles doesn’t really tell you if there is any progress in your run, says Figueroa. Instead, track the amount of time that you’re running and monitor your intensity using a heart rate monitor.
Do Run for Time
Try to improve covering the same distance in less time. For example, set your workout to run for 30 minutes and see how much distance you can cover instead of running for four miles harder than you can safely run, suggests Figueroa. The more you train, the easier your runs will become. You can either cover the same distance with greater ease, or maintain the same intensity and run farther in the same amount of time.