Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 20 : Jan/Feb 2008  > Columns  >  Fitness  >  Running Right: Function Follows Form



By Travis Johnson, Ph. D.

Running Right: Function Follows Form


Back in June, more than 100,000 applicants vied for one of the 30,000 slots in the 2008 Tokyo Marathon, and the Feb. 17 event will no doubt offer some excellent competition. A large focus of endurance running is conditioning the body’s energy systems to keep the runner going mile after mile. After all, you can’t do much when you run out of juice. However, biomechanical aspects should also be considered, so your body moves efficiently (saving energy) and isn’t subjected to unnecessary stress.
Each time your foot hits the ground, there is a huge volume of force transferred all the way up the entire body. The musculoskeletal system must decelerate and absorb that force, and failure to do so effectively leads to extra energy expenditure as well as excessive wear on joints.
Having good running mechanics will help your body cope with these forces.  Two points you can address yourself are foot alignment and arm swing.


 Your feet should be straight, with the second toe of your foot pointing directly forward. This may feel very strange at first, but it actually creates the best position for the legs, hips and spine to absorb force.
 Check yourself by raising arms straight above your head and then squatting down to sit in a low chair. If your feet turn outward as you to do this, your alignment is likely off when you run.
 Correct this by practicing the squat movement on a regular basis (about 10-15 reps a day) while keeping the second toes pointing straight forward; keep your arms straight out in front of you.
 Use a high chair as a target to begin (sit down, then stand up), progress to lower chairs as you improve. Daily static calf stretches can speed improvement as well.
 Be conscious of “straight feet” in your daily activities.


 Your arms should swing alongside your body parallel to your torso and parallel to each other. Many runners are oblivious to this simple posture movement; their arms swinging side to side erratically and often in differing trajectories, placing abnormal stress through their shoulder girdle, down the spine and even into the hips, knees and ankles.
 Elbows should be bent at about 90º on the forward swing and about 120º on the backward swing.
 Become conscious of this when running and walking; keep your shoulder blades slightly drawn back, your elbows facing directly behind you, and your opposite arm and leg smoothly moving in sync with each step.


 Asics Store in (Ginza, Tokyo). They will analyze your foot structure and gait; essential info to have when selecting shoes. www.asics.co.jp
 Masai Barefoot Technology (MBT). Specialty walking shoes that correct and re-train your gait. Web: www.swissmasai.com
 5-Toe Socks by Hoshino-Kikaku. Performance sports socks in gaijin sizes. Web: www.hoshino-kikaku.co.jp

Good luck to all 2008 Marathon competitors. Have a fitness comment or question? Send to info@somatic-systems.com