I once heard a cross country coach state that “form doesn’t matter, it’s all about conditioning” in response to a question from a parent concerned about his son’s awkward looking running form. The truth is, your running form does matter, both from a performance and injury prevention perspective.

One of the discriminating factors between distance runners is their level of efficiency or what we refer to as “running economy”. The more economical a runner is, the faster she can run at a given energy expenditure, the advantage of which should be obvious! In addition, more economical runners tend to generate lower impact and rotational forces through their gait cycles, thus reducing their susceptibility to injury. These two examples indicate that it’s NOT “all about conditioning”, but that if form work is combined with optimal conditioning a more optimal, injury-free performance is made possible. After all, if form doesn’t matter then I wonder why running looks so effortless for most, if not all elite runners compared to the not-so-elite?

The widespread interest in the barefoot-minimalist running shoe phenomenon in recent times is a prime example of the importance being placed on form in today’s running community. Proponents of the barefoot style of running are touting benefits in terms of both of the concepts I’ve mentioned above – improved performance and reduced injury. There are pros and cons to their arguments which I’ll discuss at the upcoming CDRC clinic next month, in addition to what economical running form looks like, how it affects your performance and health, as well as how to incorporate methods to attain it in your own running program. I hope to see you there.

Jim Walker, PhD, Sport Science Director, The Orthopedic Speciality Hospital, Murray, UT.  Catch Dr. Walker at the CDRC scheduled for June 23 and 24, Homestake Lodge. Email Kirk at kkeller145k@gmail.com for a clinic brochure. All levels of runners welcome!

Until next time – enjoy the run!

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