Practice these regularly and expect to improve your overall efficiency.
There’s been a lot of focus in the past few years on improved running form—specifically, getting onto your mid-foot so that you are landing with your legs under your center of gravity.
Before we get into ways to improve your form, let’s talk about why you want to do this. When you land with your leg extended out in front of your body — typical of a heel strike landing — you are sending more force through your body and potentially making yourself more susceptible to injury. Yes, shoes are part of this equation; a lower profile heel-to-toe drop is likely to make it easier to find this sweet spot for landing. But shoes are only part of the equation. Changes to form via drills is the other part.
So what drills will help you land more softly and efficiently? There are several out there that can do the trick.
One thing to keep in mind with all of these drills is that the best time to do them is before you run, as opposed to after. This is because your body will adapt to the change in form and then carry it over onto your run.
You might also consider doing the drills in your bare feet. Why? Bare feet are our best instructors. You pretty much cannot land improperly in your bare feet—your feet will talk back to you and you will naturally adjust quite quickly. While you might think that doing this in the grass is the best way to handle it, I’m going to suggest you find a nice stretch of blacktop or concrete. Again, the harder surface is going to help your feet find that sweet spot better than softer, more resilient grass.
The first drill I’m going to recommend is simply progressive jump roping. Grab a jump rope and move on down the road while using it. For your first time out, doing about six to eight rounds of about 100 meters. Put your shoes back on then, and go for your run. Muscle memory will do the rest for you.
Another great drill is to “run” in place, practicing high knees. You can enhance this by putting your hands out in front of you at about waist level and trying to get your knees to hit them. This drill will again help you learn to land with your feet under your center of gravity and with a soft landing. Like before, finish up and go run.
My final drill recommendation involves leaning from your ankles. From a standing position, lean forward slightly from your ankles—not your waist—until you feel like you’re about to fall forward. Then run about 100 meters and repeat.
Put these drills into practice one or twice each week—before a run and in your bare feet—and you’ll be on your way to better running form. Add in more minimal shoes along the way very gradually, and you’ll get there before you know it.