says Stephen McGregor, director of the Running Science Lab at Eastern Michigan University and consultant to major running device manufacturers
Is form important for running economy, speed and a lowered injury risk ? That’s a hot area of debate. Our lab, among others, has been investigating this question for years with no clear evidence that any one running style is best for speed and economy. For most recreational runners, running style is low on the list of items that could help them go faster – a position seemingly justified by a study conducted by USA Triathlon, which showed that when sub-elite triathletes focused on changing their running technique toward a particular style for 12 weeks, their running economy actually got worse.
That said, there can be value in modifying running form. In our laboratory we’re currently working with triathletes who hope to compete in the Rio Olympics in 2016, help-
ing them ‘tweak’ their running form to hopefully make the 1-2% improvement in performance that can be the difference at elite level. We assess changes over time to ensure things are going in the right direction. We’re not recommending fast or wholesale changes that would put them into a ‘ form box’, but small changes to weaknesses we see from our measurements.
But in most healthy individuals, the improvements that can come from the changes are overstated and, without an individually tailored approach, can even be counter-productive. Most runners just don’t need to learn a specific form. For most people, running improvements come from consistent training with rational incremental increases in volume and intensity.
‘NO ONE STYLE IS BEST FOR SPEED AND ECONOMY’