After a lot of thought and consideration -- I have decided to retire One Foot in Reality and leave it as an Archive. I will still monitor it to keep the trolls at bay, but will not be posting here any longer.

If you are looking for my new posts, please go to www.haroldlshaw.com .

Thank you for all they years of following One Foot In Reality.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Did I Actually Change My Running Form

Back in December 2011, I actively started, attempted, undertook, sought and I even tried to change how I ran, based on all the expert advice I was seeing in: blogs, books and running shoe ads. Hell, I even read "Born to Run" more than a couple of times.

Like most runners, over the years I have had several minor and some major injuries related to running, muscle imbalances, developed bad habits, gotten lazy, tried to find the perfect shoe to protect me from myself or tried to change how I run, but never made the real commitment needed to make the change permanent. 

Running form video December 2011

When I first saw my running form in this video back in 2011, I could see that I had a disjointed running style, that was extremely inefficient and made my running too much like torture, instead of something I enjoyed. 

When you add in that I had just had knee surgery in May 2011 and weighed about 50 pounds more than I do now. 

It was not a great combination for running well.

However, I stressed-out more about how bad my form was and thought that if I could change it, to the way or what the "experts" considered good running form, I could injury-proof my running, get faster and be able to run further.

After all aren't those the goals of most runners.

To become a better runner?

From June to December 2011, I was searching for the Holy Grail of running that would allow me to run, enjoy my running and the answer to that riddle or paradox, seemed to revolve around changing how I ran.


Over the past 4-5 years in my attempts (yes that is very plural) I have read, watched videos, and been advised by people who know a lot more about running than I ever will..
  • Chi Running
  • The Pose Method
  • Barefoot Running i.e. Natural Running
  • Been to Newton Running lead clinics
  • Participated in a running clinic with Altra Running reps
  • Had my form videotaped, analyzed, dissected and critiqued by several runners, professionals and coaches
  • Done drills, routines and exercises 
  • Re-read "Born to Run" a couple of times
  • Run barefoot for short distances 
In spite or more likely despite of all of the work that I put in to change my stride, running form, gait or what ever the hell you want to call it.

Then I took this video:

Running form video September 2015

It jarred me, because I had thought that I was running a lot differently than I actually was.

When I see photos or videos of me during races when I am not prancing for the camera the results are all the same.

2012 -- Photo by David Colby-Young, Maine Running Photos

2013 -- Photo by Don Penta - Maine Running Photos

2013 -- Photo by David Colby-Young, Maine Running Photos
2014 - Photo courtesy of Thomas College
2015 - Photo by Alicia Nemiccolo MacLeay
All those photos show me landing on my heels and leg extended. Which is how a lot of runners actually run, whether we want to admit it or not.

The Truth is

Despite my efforts, the truth is my running style has not really changed all that much over the years. What it comes down to is that when I am not paying attention to how I am running:

  • I run with a heel first landing, leg extended and my arms still cross-over in front of me.

Not what the "experts" would call perfect running form, by any stretch of the imagination.

What I have learned

However, what I have learned over the last 4-5 years of attempting to change my running form is that what you see is my running form. 

Not anyone else's.

It is the style of running that has evolved after more than 40 years of running and as much as I might want/like/wish that it was a bit closer to what is considered "good form", unless I go away and do nothing, but focus on how to run differently for several months - which ain't gonna happen.

So I have the sneaking suspicion that what we see is what my running form is.

As much as I would love to believe that I don't always run heel first and that my gait/form changes multiple times over the course of a run, it seems that when I stop thinking about how I am running and just run...well the photos don't lie.

Running Shoes

The strangest part of this whole drama is that the two things that really got me thinking about my running form again, were some comments being made online, the video of me in the driveway running in September and my present running shoes.

If my running form hasn't changed all that much, it means that the style of running shoes that I have favored over the past few years probably ain't the best choice for how I actually run. 

In other words, I need running shoes that protect me from my heel-striking self, but doesn't get in the way if I "accidentally" run with what is considered better form.

Which means...mmmm probably the running shoes I am running in now are pretty close to being the "right" style for how I really run. A little more cushion in the heel, a little more drop, but most of all they are comfortable and have a touch of stability - that gasp I probably do need. 

Yes, I am "eating crow" here.

Nope I will never, ever go back to the heavy duty (especially the heavy part - those 12-13 ounce monstrosities) motion-control shoes, that so many running stores attempted to put me in over the years. However, at the same me running in the lightest-weight neutral, low-drop shoe as my daily trainer probably ain't the best choice for how I run either. 

From what I have learned, I need to stay somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

The reality is that

It seems that my actual running form is a poster child for what is considered "bad" running form in today's world. 

Harold, if your running form is so horrible, why are you running so well (knock on wood) now. The honest answer is that weigh a lot less (going from over 200 pounds to between 150-155) and I run a lot (40 to 50 miles a week). 

I really think that losing the weight was the biggest difference and being able to run a lot, has allowed my body to figure out the most efficient way for my body to run within its limitations and abilities.

You notice that I am not saying a whole lot about what kind of shoes, because I am learning that my running shoes have less to do with me running well or poorly than I want to admit. Though the wrong ones can totally screw up a good run.

Also I have finally actually accepted that I probably ain't really going to change how I run very much and have stopped stressing out over it.

So what am I gonna do?

You know what am I going to do, to save myself from all the whining, pissing, moaning, groaning and stressing out that I typically do, about how I am going to change/improve my running form. 

Actually, I am not going to do anything.

What in the hell are you talking about Harold?

Stop and think for a minute...I mean really stop and think, for me at least. I have spent years and countless hours, stressing over, researching, studying, doing drills and working on running "better", without a whole lot of noticeable improvement.

So I am going to just run.

That's right, heresy's of all heresy's - just run and not worry how I am running. Ignore the books, blogs, videos, expert advice and all that other stuff and just run.

My form ain't what you would call perfect, but finally I have had a year where I haven't focused so much on "how" I run, as much as I have focused on just running and it seems to be working pretty well, if the below summary is any indication.

Running Summary as of 9-12-15
I know that I over-think my running and my running shoes, it is just who I am. 

However, the best advice I have ever gotten about my running form was given to me when I first started running:
  • Run tall
  • Don't clench your fists
  • Look ahead
  • Run quiet
Good advice, sometimes simple is better.

Have you taken a good look at your form lately - on video? You might be in for a bit of a surprise, especially if you are not aware that you are "on camera".

Think about it and take a look, you might be surprised by what you see.

Originally published on One Foot in Reality, © 2011-2015 – All Rights Reserved. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to One Foot In Reality with appropriate and specific directions or links to the original content.


  1. I used to worry about my form a lot. Am I doing this right? Is my foot landing correct? Are my heels off the ground? So much do that it took all the fun out of running. These days I belive that if it feels comfortable, don't change it, even if I look like a big gummy bear :-D

  2. Nick - I don't think you will ever look like a big gummy bear, you are too damn skinny hehehehe. Yeah, I agree with you though focusing so much on the how am I running, takes the joy out of just running :-)

  3. I got on the whole, change your form, go minimalist bandwagon years ago and it has caused me years of issues. When I go back and look at pictures and videos from my before era, I actually had decent form and I jacked it all up. So I have stopped trying to run with this so called perfect form and the perfect cadence and I run more relaxed like you mentioned. I now enjoy running more, Im getting injured less and have gotten faster. The one thing I have learned is that everyones body is different, at high speeds even elites heal strike and the only person who should be concerned about your form and telling you how to run is you.

    1. I think a lot of runners have gone through the cycle and finally have realized that we are an experiment of one and that maybe our perfect form is just ours with some simple guidelines.

      Run tall
      Run quiet
      Don't make a fist
      Lift your feet up
      Don't swing your shoulders side-to-side

      If you do those things, probably your form will take care of itsefl??? It is what I am doing and having fun with for now. :-)


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