Chapter 4: What is good running technique?

Getting to know each phase of the running technique is critical to understanding running technique and more importantly how to evaluate your own or another runner’s technique.  This diagram breaks down running technique into four distinct phasesThis page gives you some additional photos and videos to help explain the four phases I use to describe running technique. As you scroll down the page you’ll also see some good and not so good (me) examples of running technique during each of these phases.  As with my approach in the book the goal is to identify the common good elements of running technique that any runner can work towards adopting.  I have used images of elite runners for illustrative purposes – you don’t have to try and move exactly as these runners do, just be aware of the fundamentals which any runner can develop.  This chapter of the Running Technique eBook provides all of the information needed to unlock the fundamentals of good running form.

Four phases of running

I have marked up this image of elite 1500m runners below to get you started.

These elite 5000m runners are also highlighted for illustrative purposes.


Preparation – good technique

You’ll know by now that I believe this phase to be the most critical to get right as it plays such a big role in setting the foundations for good technique throughout the entire running cycle.

Example 1 – good knee flex and relatively neutral foot/ankle posture


Example 2 – preparation from a different angle


Example 3 – Elite preparation


Preparation with technique problems

Example 1 – Problems are evident where the knee become too straight – especially in slower running.

Next image

Contact – good technique

Elite 5000m runner contact


A regular barefoot runner demonstrates good thigh posture on contact


Contact with technique problems

Back-swing – good technique

Back-swing commences before the leg gets too far behind the body.  The hip does not need to go very far into extension especially when you consider the slight forward tilt of the pelvis as each athlete pushes off, this delivers increased range of motion without over-extending the hip joint.


In this image we can see the knee starting to flex and the hip is close to maximum extension – more or less the end of the back-swing phase.

Good transition into forward swing, the knee is well flexed creating a shorter lever to hasten the return of the leg into the next stride.


These elite and talented milers demonstrate very tight formation in forward swing with the knee completely flexed and feet right on the buttocks.


Asbel Kiprop Stride Study

Asbel Kiprop Stride Study by Running Technique Tips 2

Asbel Kiprop Stride Study 3 by Running Technique Tips Final

4 Responses to “Chapter 4: What is good running technique?”

  1. szatmari.daniel says:

    Hi Brian,

    I quote from your book: “You need to activate your
    hamstrings and glutes before and as you strike the ground”.
    This ‘activation’ process leaves me with a lot of question marks: do I need to consciously ‘squeeze’ the hamstrings & glutes?? Or after a reasonable amount of strength training & running technique it will come ‘naturally’?

    Thanks, Daniel

    • BrianMartin says:

      Hi Daniel,

      I think the second part of your question is the preferable way to go i.e. once you get strong enough these muscles tend to kick in automatically – doing strength training that is similar to running really helps with this. However in the early stages you might need to think about it a bit more. One way to practice this concept is to try some of the running drills as described in a recent article over at my blog Running Technique Tips. Don’t be afraid to try a few things out … short easy test jogs to see how it feels. Brian

  2. szatmari.daniel says:

    Hi Brian,

    One more question: do we push off at the terminus point of the leg extension right before the foot leaves the ground? I’ve searched the book but I haven’t found a specific sentence “you should push strongly off the ground…”(maybe I’ve missed it?)

    I mean, along the different things I’ve tried, pushing off seems to give me a longer stride + more flying time but also has a drawback by lowering my cadence (at least for now)

    Thanks again,

    • BrianMartin says:

      Hi Daniel

      It’s probably best to think about applying some pressure down before your thigh passes into extension rather than pushing off too hard as the foot is leaving the ground.

      Don’t worry if your cadence is a little low on easy runs this will mean you’re running more strongly.

      What’s your cadence on an easy run?


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Four phases of running

David Rudisha

Solinsky, Lagat, Tegenkamp, St Lawrence

Jemma Simpson, Kaila McKnight

Brian slow motion

Mark slow motion

Philo slow motion

Brian's old technique side view

Brian's old technique rear


Asbel Kiprop Stride Study