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How to Run: A Biomechanical Approach by Steve Magness

Earlier this week I posted a quote from and interview Amby Burfoot conducted with famed runner and coach Alberto Salazar in which Salazar was quoted as saying: “There has to be one best way of running. It’s got to be like a law of physics. And if you deviate too much from that–the way I did in my career–it can be a big handicap.” At the end of the post, I lamented that although there are numerous published philosophies on running form (e.g., Pose, Chi, Evolution, Newton, or that described in any of the numerous running books out there), there seems to be no consensus on what exactly is the best way to run, or if there even is a single best way to run that will work for every person.

Yesterday, fellow running blogger Steve Magness over at the Science of Running blog sent me an e-mail saying that he had put together a post describing his philosophy on how to run. I respect Steve’s opinion a lot since he is a fellow scientist, a coach, and an elite level runner (he is a near 4:00 miler). He has also studied under some of the best running coaches out there, and has observed Salazar in action at the Nike Training Complex. Steve brings a distinctly biomechanical and scientific approach to his description of how to run, and I highly recommend that you give his post a a read:

Here are Steve’s summary points, check out the full post for a more thorough description.

1. Body Position- upright, slight lean from ground. Head and face relaxed.
2. Feet- as soon as knee comes through, put the foot down underneath you. Land mid or forefoot underneath knee, close to center of the body.
3. Arm stroke- controls rhythm, forward and backwards from the shoulder without side to side rotation
4. Hip extension- extend the hip and then leave it alone.
5. Rhythm- control rhythm and speed through arm stroke and hip extension.

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



    I’ve followed teve’s method of running since March and at last I found the answers I was looking for :]
    I’ve been running for 17 years but decided 2 years ago to reseach into running form.
    I tried Pose, Chi Running, Evolution Running BK running and Dr Yessis.
    The truth was I was not happy with the answers they gave me.
    So I kept searching, and believe me it was a long, long search, but just when I was about to give up hope I came across Steve’s website.
    AWESOME :]
    Now instead of forcing my muscles I follow Tom tellez’s method of using the bodies natural stretch reflex of the hip flexor’s and the calf-tendon-foot.
    Running feels so much better, it feels natural and fun and I’m running faster to!
    Tom tellez on running form

  2. Once again thanks for your blog Pete. Very infomative! Your blog consistently provides me with new info and ideas and opportunities to talk to other people. From your minimialist running shoe review, I found a website of someone in Denver, CO. He had gone to a doctor in Summit County who is on the Vibrams biomechanics advisory board. My wife and I are heading to CO on vacation and I have an appointment with him to analyze my gait. Since I run in teh Vibrams why not go with an expert?
    So all this to tell you thanks for site. I have learned so much not only from you but also from your readers. Please keep up the good work. Happy running!!!


    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks Scott! I’d love to hear how your gait analysis goes – drop me an
      email after its done.


  3. That was a great report… thanks for that post….:D

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