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The Right Way to Change your Form

Category: Running Form

An important principle is to gradually ease into your new mechanics and eventually finish with a maintenance program that involves less coaching time. The second thing, of equal importance, is to ensure that your body has an adequate foundation of  stability (strength) and mobility (flexibility/range of motion) to effectively begin training your body to move in a more efficient way. For example you need a stable foot and pelvis to push off and a mobile ankle and hip to allow the leg to swing correctly through the gait cycle.

Changing your form takes time since you are changing the demands of your body. You need to ensure you have enough strength in the muscles that you need for your new form, you need to teach your brain to recruit these muscles and you need to learn to do it all while running. Therefore, it is best to change your form before or after a training program (e.g a 12 week half marathon training program) rather than during your training. Training already puts a large demand on your body so increasing that demand can lead to too much stress on your body. It is possible to retrain your body to run with efficient form during your race training but it needs to be done very gradual.

Running Form modifications are a topic that has gained a lot traction over the last few years. Most of the conversation revolves around changing your foot strike pattern or transitioning to be a barefoot runner. The barefoot training programs suggest starting off gradual by only running 1 mile or so in the beginning and then increasing your distance slowly over a few weeks. This should also be considered when changing an aspect of your form. Changing your form will always feel bad before it feels good. Think of how you feel when you increase your pace, you have pushed your body out of your comfort zone but eventually your body adapts. The great thing is the basic principles of these progressive programs are the fundamental principles remain true for most gait training.

Here is an adaptation of Dr. Davis’s advice via barefoot running tips and training with respect to the pelvis:

Build up slowly!
If you vigorously work out any weak muscles in your body, they will be sore and stiff. So please, don’t overdo it doing too much too soon often results in injury.  

  • Start by thinking about your cues during walking frequently. (i.e try to contract your abs during walking).
  • First week: no more than a quarter mile to one mile every other day. As mentioned above change puts stress on your body so it’s best to introduce a form change when the intensity of your planned run is not an exhaustive effort.
  • Increase your distance by no more than 10% per week. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a general guide. If your muscles remain sore, avoid increasing your training. Take an extra day off or maintain your form focused distance for another week.
  • Stop and let your body heal if you experience pain. Sore, tired muscles are normal, but bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain is a signal of injury. See a medical professional if it persists.
  • Be patient and build gradually.  Remember that recommendations like a 10% weekly increase are good to use to guide your starting point, but ultimately,  your body and how it feels is the best guide when it comes to making a change with your form.  If  you develop a lingering soreness your body is telling you that this change is stressful and it needs some extra time to adapt and get stronger.  Allow your body time to get stronger as pushing through high levels of soreness and fatigue too often won’t properly allow your body to become stronger and more efficient.  So the key message is use guidelines to determine your starting point, but trust your body’s feedback to maximize the process of positively and permanently optimizing your form and don’t hesitate to progress at a more gradual rate.

Dr. Carey Rothschild has also published on the topic. Below is an adaptation to her barefoot progression plan (3) summary table of her suggestions.

This one can be adapted as follows:

Table 2: Sample of running form progression program

Week 1 – 4        preparatory exercises: 2-3 times per week. Be mindful of creating a neutral pelvis while walking for 30 minutes daily.
Week 5-6 running ¼ mile -1 mile: 2-3 times per week. On a surface such as a grassy field or rubberized track.
Week 7-8 increase by 10% to ⅓ – 1 ¼ miles:  2-3 times per week. On a surface such as a grassy field or rubberized track.
Week 9 +  increase by additional 10% to ½  – 1 ½  miles:  2-3 times per week. Progress to smooth paved surfaces as desired.
  • Do not progress mileage if soreness persists.


  1. Willy, R.W., Scholz, J.P., Davis, I.S. (2012). Mirror gait retraining for the treatment of patellofemoral pain in female runners. Clinical biomechanics. 27(10):1045-51. 
  2. Noehren, B.; Scholz, J.; Davis, I. (2010)The effect of real-time gait retraining on hip kinematics, pain and function in subjects with patellofemoral pain syndrome. British Journal of Sports Medicine 45 (9): 691-696.
  3. Rothschild, C (2012). Running Barefoot or in Minimalist Shoes: Evidence or Conjecture? Strength and Conditioning Journal 34(2): 8-17.
  4. The Proactive Athlete (2012). Barefoot Running Part 2 (Lessons from a course with Irene Davis) –