Proper running mechanics is considered essential in reducing risk of injury and maximizing running efficiency. However perfect running form is theoretical and depends on individual mechanics. Many world class runners have been shown to not run with ideal form without sidelining injury. Subtle variations of form can be considered adequate if it feels natural and comfortable to runner and they have apparently adapted to specific form by not showing signs of injury.
Gait and natural footstrike vary between individuals, Find a running or sports shoe that is comfortable and works with the mechanics and needs specific to the individual. However, even barefoot running is possible with sufficient adaptations.
Even when injury does occur and running form is questioned, it may be difficult to attribute the injury to a specific flaw in running form since injuries may have multiple contributing factors or more simply may be caused by factors other than exercise form (eg: overtraining, exhaustion creating altered form, etc; see Injury Etiology). Changing form (eg: foot contact on heel vs midfoot vs forefoot) may effectively trade one orthopedic risk of injury for another. Changing running form also takes time to develop new neuromotor pattern while permitting for adequate orthopedic adoption (sufficient strength and mobility) required to execute altered form with a renewed baseline risk of injury. Altering running form away from what feels natural may also decrease running efficiency.
Moore (2016) conducted a meta-analysis evaluating whether economical running techniques can be recommended from past studies. He found several intrinsic and extrinsic modifiable biomechanical factors which appeared to correlate running efficiency.
- using a preferred stride length range, allowing for stride length deviations up to 3 % shorter than preferred stride length
- lower vertical oscillation
- greater leg stiffness
- low lower limb moment of inertia
- less leg extension at toe-off
- larger stride angles
- alignment of the ground reaction force and leg axis during propulsion
- maintaining arm swing
- low thigh antagonist–agonist muscular coactivation
- low activation of lower limb muscles during propulsion
- a firm, compliant shoe–surface interaction
- being barefoot or wearing lightweight shoes
- running biomechanics during ground contact, specifically during propulsion *
* This phase showed to have the strongest direct links with runny economy.
Several other modifiable biomechanical factors presented inconsistent relationships with running economy, such as orthotics shoe inserts. Also recurring methodological problems existed with the reviewed literature. For these reasons, Moore warned recommending economical running technique should be approached with caution.
Moore IS (2016). Is There an Economical Running Technique? A Review of Modifiable Biomechanical Factors Affecting Running Economy. Sports Med; 46 (6): 793-807.
Steele L (2018). Stop Trying to Achieve ‘Perfect’ Running Form. Runner's World. https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a25346675/stop-trying-to-achieve-perfect-running-form/, Accessed 10 Nov 2019.