Good running form is one of the most neglected elements of running. For decades, we've followed a paradigm where we use various shoe designs to correct bad running form. The rise of barefoot and minimalist shoe running has created a surge of research that has progressively shifted the paradigm. We're now moving toward the idea of learning good form, then selecting shoes that don't interfere with good form. It's a subtle but significant difference.
So what is “good form?” This is a tricky issue. What works for some may not work for others. Most people seem to agree on some points, however. Here are the basics that most people agree are the foundation for better running form:
1. Upright posture. Good posture is the foundation of good form. Your posture should be upright, arms should swing freely at your sides, and your knees should remain bent throughout the gait cycle.
2. Feet land under your body. It's common for people to overstride where their foot lands in front of their body. This is less efficient and dramatically increases the impact of running. It also reduces balance which is critically important when trail running.
3. Faster, shorter steps. Your cadence, or number of steps per minute, should increase to at least 180 per minute. Your stride length should also decrease. This helps insure your feet will land under your body.
Making these adjustments will increase your efficiency and likely reduce injuries regardless of the shoes you have on your feet. While I'm a huge proponent of barefoot and minimalist “barefoot” shoes, they may not be appropriate for everyone. Even if you wear motion-control cushioned trainers with a huge raised heel, making these changes to your running form can make a dramatic difference.