Today, Coach Sage Canaday is going to discuss the concept of “running tall,” and why this could make a huge difference in your running form. In short, it will align your whole body position to be able to run efficiently!

The idea with running tall is that we want to avoid the dreaded heel strike. This is when you land in front of your center of mass. When I see runner’s heel strike, it’s often accompanied by “wingy” elbows and their hips are really low to the ground, almost as if they are trying to perform a squat.

Instead, you want to focus on running tall. That’s the cue for straightening your spine, your whole upper body position, and bouncing off your feet and ankles. One drill that I do to help me with this motion is perform a “running man dance” type of exercise. You can get an idea of that below:

This motion is very exaggerated, but it’s showing the kind of ankle action and propulsion you get when you’re landing under your center of mass off the midfoot or the middle part of your foot (or, at least your whole foot hitting the ground as long as it’s not a heel strike out in front of your body). It’s just better physics; you’re getting more propulsion, more powerful push-off force, utilizing your calf muscles in the back of your legs to your glutes, and springing off the ground.

Another drill to practice is springing up and down, like the exercise you see below. The important thing to note is that I’m straightening the spine while realizing that the forward lean in running comes from the ankles and the feet hitting the ground, and the rest of your body is in line.

Other things to be cognizant of when doing this exercise is you want to be straightening your back and lifting your stomach and rib cage. It opens up your diaphragm so you can breathe better and be more efficient when you run.

So, what’s the point in doing all of these drills and paying close attention to our form?

It’s all about efficiency in running—efficiency to make you run faster but also to minimize the risk of injury from impact force and repetitive strain. There’s a lot of force coming down with each foot strike, two to three times your body weight. If it’s a braking heel strike in front of your body and your hips are too low and you’re running short, like even I kind of do sometimes, then it’s going to put a lot of strain. It could also strain your hip flexors and lower back, causing a lot of pain.

In conclusion, think “run tall” when you’re out running; try to be as tall as possible! It doesn’t mean you’re trying to spring up as much as possible. You still want to avoid too much vertical bounce or oscillation but keep your chest upright, maintain a straight line, and keep your hips under you and up high so you can open up your legs better.

I hope these running form tips and exercises help you a little bit in your running this week. Thanks for your support and happy running!

Coach Sage Canaday