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Become a More Efficient Runner

By Ken Axford | Dec. 04, 2008, 12 a.m. (ET)

Focusing on these five elements of running can help you run faster and more efficiently.

1. Stride Length and Stride Rate

The most common inefficiency in the average runner is over-striding.  This is typically visible by a heavy heel strike and a low stride rate.  The target stride rate for most age group runners is between 88-90 foot strikes per minute.  (how many times one foot hits the ground per minute)  By targeting this rate, (or higher) athletes will often shorten their stride to become more efficient and lessen strain on their joints.

2. Foot strike

This is very closely related to an athlete's stride.  The optimal foot strike is mid foot or in some cases forefoot.  A heel strike is the runner's way of putting on the brakes.  This is also very hard on hip and knee joints.

3. Arm movement

Arms are an essential part of running.  They provide balance and often additional power.  Keep arms close to the body, elbows bent about 90 degrees, not crossing the center line of the body.  Keep movements "quit" and relaxed.

4. Body Position

Forward lean or lack thereof can play a major part in efficiency.  The best general thought to have while focusing on body position is: "Run Tall."  This means run with your head high, looking 15-30 feet in front of you.  Run erect with your shoulders back and arms at your side  (remember #3).  A slight forward lean of about 5-6 degrees is often optimal to assist in proper foot strike and cadence.

5. Shoes

Yes, shoes! This is one of the most often overlooked yet essential aspects of running well.  Many foot shapes, gait types, and stride techniques require many different types of shoes.  Buy your shoes from a reputable running specific store that will analyze your foot along with your run technique to offer an optimum shoe.

Ken Axford is the head coach of Fast-Tri Sports and a USA Triathlon Level I certified coach. Visit his website at