How to Run Properly

How to Run Properly

Posted on 04. Apr, 2010 by in Exercise

A lot of people tend to think that they know how to run. After all, it’s simple right? If you can walk, you can run. I used to think this way until I read about the Tarahumara (pronounced Tara-oo-mara, see their picture above). They are an Indian tribe in North Mexico who are known for their traditional running competitions that lasts for 2 days. A lot of books have been written about them because of their ability to run long distances with little rest and one such book was written by Christopher McDougall and is entitled, “Born to Run”. After much research of the Tarahumaran way of life, I found that they have a very distinct way of running. I found this research to be truly valuable in changing the way that I run so I’d like to share it with you.

I love watching sprinters especially Usain Bolt

I love watching sprinters especially Usain Bolt

I used to get shin splints after running. I tried other types of shoes and different running surfaces but I still kept getting them. I also felt that I was pounding the ground too much like I’m too heavy to run. Back then, I was practicing the “old school” way of running where I’m supposed to roll my foot on the ground starting from the ball of my foot all the way to the heel. It turns out that this way of running was causing my shin splints. I know this because the very first time I applied the Tarahumaran “running mechanics,” I felt light as air and did not get shin splints the next day. Most of all, I was able to perform more high intensity intervals at higher speeds. I felt so good that I just wanted to keep running.

So, what makes this new way of running different? Here are a few things that I’ve learned:

  • My arms should always be at 90 degrees and never pass my head when they swing back and forth.
  • Keep my shoulders and hips right on top of my feet. In other words, I shouldn’t be leaning forward or backward but standing straight.
  • Do not wear running shoes. I stopped wearing running shoes a long time ago for any workouts that I do. I started doing this for my kettlebell work but decided that I needed to stop running in them too. The results are tremendous because the higher heels in running shoes can offset your balance so that you’re leaning forward instead of standing straight.
  • When I get ready for my sprint and during the actual sprints, my heels never touch the ground. In other words, I’m on the ball of my feet the whole time. You’ll know you’re doing this right when you’re calves get a little sore the next day.

Some of these tips also came from a friend of mine who used to run track in college. She gave me all sorts of different “stages” when we sprint but I couldn’t remember them all if my life depended on it…haha. You can also read up on Christopher McDougall’s summary of his experience which he talked about in an article for Men’s Health called, “The Men Who Live Forever”. I got some of the tips from him too. When I run this way, I feel like I can run for a long time and I felt a thrill rush through my veins! Best of all, no more shin splints and more calories burned.

If you have any questions about running, please post them in the comments section and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.

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  • Clement

    Hi Anna, this is a great post that we males can apply too. What you’re recommending seems very similar to the pose method. I’ve never gotten shin splints or injuries, but shifting to the balls of my feet for running from the heel striking method has certainly made running a breeze.

    However, I feel that you can still get a good job in with shoes that don’t pronate your foot too excessively. My asics shoes have served me well for a year now and the heel portion is now kind of flat already. All I do is adjust to ensure that I’m running forefoot and using my toes more.

    Once again, keep up the good work!

  • admin

    Hi Clement, by all means, these tips apply to everyone whether you’re male or female. I’m glad to hear about your experience with these strategies. It really does make a big difference.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • flowerd

    what do you mean dont wear running shoes?what kind of shoes do you recommend?

  • Catherine

    Hi Anna,
    What kind of shoes should you wear instead of running shoes? Just curious to know if you mean that cross trainers are better or another type of shoe altogether? thanks!

  • admin

    Hi Catherine and Flowerd,

    I should’ve provided examples of shoes…haha. I meant to do it in the article but I personally use Pumas, Speed Cat in particular. Other options can be Nike Free or similar styles or Vibram Five Fingers.


  • pjnoir

    running shoes are dsigned so you improperly land first on the heel. You must land on the ball of the foot, which means you need to lift the knee and let the foot swing outward so you can land on the ball of the foot. And you can do this wearing shoes- barefoot is not going to make you run properly by itself.

  • admin

    PJ, I totally agree. Thanks for the comment!


  • Liz H.

    I’ve been hearing about this & have taken note because I, too, have trouble with shin splints. But I didn’t when I was younger. When I was younger I just ran – & it was on the balls of my feet. Then I “grew up” & thought I needed instruction to learn to do it right. Guess I should have stuck with what’s natural!

  • admin

    Hi Liz, we definitely lose proper movement mechanics when we get older so we have to consciously pay attention to our form. I hope you finally say bye bye to shin splints 🙂


  • Hey Anna!

    This is a great post. I’ve written about running a couple of times.

    I’m not the world’s greatest runner, but running on the balls of your feet is definitely a more effective way to run, and makes you less prone to injuries.

  • admin

    Hey Mel, definitely. I’m so addicted to running this way now 🙂


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  • I've never heard of this 'old school' way of running, but it doesn't sound effective at all.

  • Many people, including me, have been running this way. Even marathoners agree that this is a great way to run. You are entitled to your own opinion and preferences so feel free to experiment.

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  • Monkeyrama94

    if we don;t wear running shoes what shoes are we supposed to wear?

  • You’ll need to find shoes with minimal cushion. There are lots of brands out there such as Vibram, Nike, and Adidas who makes shoes like these. It’s almost like you’re barefoot.