The ultimate goals of natural running are to reduce your risk of injury and to run more efficiently. While some associate natural running with barefoot running, this running technique is actually intended to improve your form, regardless of whether you’re wearing supportive running shoes, minimalist “barefoot” running shoes, or transitional shoes that fall somewhere in between.
“Natural running has been around for thousands of years,” explains Newton Hoang, a natural running coach with Mountain Equipment Co-op. “It’s not some new phenomenon. It’s an efficient, more natural way of running.”
Newton notes, “If you were to go outside and run in your bare feet, you would probably automatically start running on your midfoot with a shorter stride and a quicker cadence.” Natural running experts agree that these techniques use our muscles, tendons and ligaments in the way they were intended.
Interested in trying natural running? Follow these tips from Newton:
Check your posture
Start by making sure your head is in a neutral spine position, lining up your ears over your shoulders. Next, double-check that your chest and hips are facing forward. Keep your arms at 90 degrees and let them hang loose at the shoulders. With each stride, drive your elbows back and keep your hands near your sides. Bend your knees and ankles to act as natural shock absorbers.
Lean forward and step quickly
As you run, maintain your aligned posture and slightly lean forward from the ankles. Focus on landing lightly on your midfoot, with the foot touching down under your centre of mass instead of out in front of you. Allow your heel to settle naturally to the ground as your weight transfers to your foot. The natural elastic recoil from your tendons will help you get the light bounce you need to run more efficiently and without injury. Aim for a cadence of 180 steps per minute – you’ll use less energy and hit the ground with less impact than if you were running at a slower cadence.
Warm up with drills and stretches
Resist the temptation to start running without warming up. To get your body in tune to run efficiently without injury, consider a routine of drills and dynamic stretches like high knees, butt kickers, hamstring stretches, and knee raise stretches.
Have a pro check your form
Mountain Equipment Co-op offers a series of free meet-up runs and natural running clinics, where a running coach can help you improve your technique, train for races and learn more about natural running. Visit events.mec.ca to find out more and register for an event near you.
Check out MEC’s full selection of natural footwear and apparel.