How to correct your running form to prevent injury

A few weeks ago I started feeling a sharp pain on the outside of my right knee. It usually showed up about a mile into my runs and felt like someone had stuck a knife into the side of my knee. My knee would either lock up at this point, or, if I was able to push on and keep running, the pain would travel all the way up the outside of my thigh to my hip. I knew immediately this was an IT Band problem.

With a little more than a month left in my training for a half marathon on Sept. 30, and three weeks into marathon training for a race on Nov. 19, this was not going to fly. I needed a solution. Fast. After taking quite a few rest days, I felt ready to hit the road again for an easy, quick 2-mile run. Not so fast, my IT Band said and around 1.6 miles my knee locked up and I literally could not run anymore. I was devastated and took to Twitter, as I usually do, to ask my runner friends what was wrong.

After hearing from a bunch of people I was informed it was more important to find out what caused the problem before trying to fix it. One of my Twitter followers, Ryan Knapp, a triathlete and endurance running coach from Kansas City, suggested the problem may be my form. Ryan asked me to take a 30 second video of me running away from my camera and back to my camera. I then sent it to him through his website and he evaluated it.

He told me he could immediately tell I used to be a dancer because of my posture and he said he’s be able to help me. Here’s the video I sent to him:

(Don’t mind my Dad talking in the background…)

After reviewing my video, Ryan filmed his own video to explain to me what he saw in my running form and what I could do to fix it. He said overall, my form wasn’t terrible- I have good body position (meaning I’m not leaning to one side or the other) and I have very still shoulders. However, he told me I had three things I needed to work on- lifting from my core, swinging my arms correctly and lean more.

  • Lifting from my core- According to Ryan, the reason I was having the IT Band problems is because I was swinging my legs like a pendulum when I ran, causing my foot to land in front of me and subsequently causing me to heel-strike, a huge no, no in the running world. To fix this, Ryan said I need to focus on lifting from my core so my feet will land below me and be able to power up immediately after hitting the ground.
  • Arms- From what Ryan saw, I run with my arms kind of high up in respect to my ribcage and they go across my midline (the invisible line that runs down the center of your body). Ryan said this wastes a lot of energy and space. To fix this, he told me to “gunsling”- make sure my elbows go behind me and in front of me, somewhere down by my waist.
  • I run very erect- My running posture is very straight and according to Ryan, there should be a little bit of lean in a runner’s form. To do this, I want to lean from my ankles.

Here’s the video Ryan did for me:

Ryan said there were two simple exercises I can do to work on my form and get used to mid-foot and fore-foot striking.

  • Skip drills- This is where you literally skip down the street. According to Ryan, skipping helps the body (and feet) recognize what it’s like to push off from the fore-foot because it’s impossible to skip from the heel.
  • Jump Rope Drills- Simply pretend (or if you have a jump rope) like you’re jumping rope. This has the same effect as the skip drill but you’ll notice if you do this and then immediately stop, that’s the same effect as a heel strike, which is very bad. Jump rope drills will also help your body learn to mid-foot strike and fore-foot strike.

Yesterday morning I did these drills and put the tips into practice and I noticed a significant difference in my running. (Knock on wood*) I had hardly any IT pain and I ran an easy 5 miles in 45 minutes, pretty good time for me. I had to concentrate a lot more on my form throughout the run because the second I stopped paying attention I found myself going back to my old form. I talked to Ryan about this and he said, like with anything, it’ll take some getting used to. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes!

If you’re interested in getting your form analyzed, feel free to contact Ryan either through Twitter or on his website.

26 thoughts on “How to correct your running form to prevent injury

  1. Pleasure to help Hannah! I can’t overemphasize how important form is to runners, especially new runners. It not only makes you a healthier runner, but it also makes you a more happy runner when you can run more efficiently.

    Also wanted to talk about lean. Lean is extremely important when running. If you march and stand erect, you stand in one spot. All you need to do to run from the march is simply to push your chest out, lean and go. If you want to run faster, lean more. Simple enough!

    • Thanks Ryan! I’ll definitely work on the lean too a little more. It seems like your tips are helping a lot of people!

  2. Hi.. I am a newcomer to your blog! This is the first post that I have read, and this was great! I will work on these drills too, as I am working hard to perfect my form. I hope I can accomplish that… :)

  3. Thanks for sharing these tips (and of course to Ryan, too). While not new to running, I’ve always tended to chalk personal IT band issues up simply to over training or mileage increases, and probably haven’t given enough consideration to potential form issues. It’ll certainly be worth giving some thought and attention.

    • I felt the same way. I’m kind of a new runner (started in March) but have been able to run 12 miles + easily. However, the IT band issue started during a 5k and Ryan noted this could be because I was racing hard, as opposed to a long 12-mile run where I might be going easy. IT band could be from overuse too but by racing hard it accentuates any issues.

    • When dealing with IT band issues, simple form tweaks can make a huge difference. I’d me more than happy to take a look at your form and give you some feedback if you would like.

  4. Thanks for sharing these tips (and of course to Ryan, too). While not new to running, I’ve always tended to chalk personal IT band issues up simply to over training or mileage increases, and probably haven’t given enough consideration to potential form issues. It will certainly be worth giving some thought and attention.

  5. Pingback: Week 13: Half marathon training update | Fit Girl. Happy Girl.

    • Thanks! Definitely try the tips out and let me know how they work out for you! No matter how much experience you have as a runner there’s always room for improvement.

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