The 3 invariable Element of Running

Running - something we all just do. The sport is famed for being simpel and doable straight away for each and everybody. While most people are (thank God) eager to learn the correct technique for strength training, combat sports or swimming when they start out, no one really pays attention to what they are doing when in jogging shoes.

But there is actually irony in the fact that running is supposed to be a movement that is just within human on one hand, but on the other hand, nearly everyone who does does it: Wrong!

Running with bad technique is, like any other movement executed poorly, inefficient. It makes you slower and fatigues your muscles faster. But if you don’t care about your pace anyway, then how about that: It causes wearing and increases the risk of injuries by a lot.

The 3 invariable Element of Running

A run is the transition between 3 invariable elements, or rather 3 elements every runner goes through while moving forward:

  • The Running pose

  • Falling from support

  • Pulling the foot from the ground

The Running Pose

The Running pose is the initial contact between the foot and the ground, after that split second when the runner is weightless in the air. In this phase, your quadriceps is mostly active in order to “catch and break” your bodyweight.

The Running pose is static, but its also the critical point where potential energy is generated. The goal is to go through this as quickly as possible, or the energy is wasted.

The further you hit the ground in front of your body, the slower you go through the Running pose, the less power you create. Also, the Running pose is the element where most injuries happen - hanging out here longer increases therefore the risk of injury.

Running Pose

Running Pose

Falling from Support

This is the phase after the foot has found support on the ground and your whole body will fall forward.

The greater the falling angle in the Falling pose, the more speed you generate. While amateurs often show an almost upright posture, elite runners get into a falling angle up to 22.5 degree.



Pulling the foot from the ground

After the foot has passed the knee of the support leg in the Falling pose, the 3rd running pose follows: The Pulling from the ground is the most active element. The primary used muscle here is the hamstring.

The frequency of the Pulling is called cadence. Only cadences above 180 pulls per minute make optimale use of the muscle-tendon elasticity. The average runner pulls the food off ground 160 times per minute - too slow the run efficient.



Why heel striking is an issue

Sit down in a park in Singapore and watch all these people jogging by. 99% of them will run with a heel strike, means in the Running pose, they make initial ground contact with the heel first. Normally this is combined with setting up the foot way in front of the body and the center of mass - which leads, as mentioned above, to longer time in the running pose, inefficiency through a braking effect and injury risk.

Another problem about the heel strike: Ankle and knee are completely locked in that position. As a consequence, the joints absorb all the impact when the runner hits the ground - appr. 3 times your bodyweight!

It is therefore advised to get used to a mid-foot or even fore-foot strike. This will take some practice and patients, especially if you are looking back to a longer running biography. Movement pattern established over millions of steps (this is actually a realistic number) cannot be replaced easily, but hard work will pay off. As usual.


This content is inspired by the CrossFit Running Online Course, available under: