In general, I advise against changing your natural running form. You might see other people running and think you should run just like they do. Trying to mimic another runner’s form can be a recipe for injury – their muscle strengths and weaknesses might be completely different from yours. There are, however, a few tweaks you can make to your own running form that can improve your performance and help safeguard against injury.
Increase your cadence. One of the best things you can do to reduce the risk of injury is to increase your cadence, which is the rate at which your feet hit the ground. This will reduce the forces on your body and help prevent injury. You can increase your cadence by using music that is slightly faster than your current cadence or use your watch to track your current cadence and increase it slightly. Aim for a 5% increase, unless you are already achieving 180 foot strikes per minute. This is already a world-class cadence and shouldn’t be increased.
Shorten your stride. This will likely become a necessity if you are increasing your cadence. Shorten your stride enough so that you can hit your 5% cadence increase goal.
Land with your foot underneath your body. A lot has been written about the pros and cons of different types of foot striking – heel, mid and rear. If you’d like to learn more and identify yours, I recommend this article on the subject. As the article states, it is probably not a good idea to try to change your foot strike type. Instead, the key is to land with your foot underneath your body (rather than in front of your body). This will improve your efficiency because landing with your foot in front of your body causes braking forces that run counter to forward propulsion. This is true whether or not you are a heel striker.
Relax your upper body. Surprisingly, a lot of fatigue and pain can occur in long runs due to carrying unnecessary tension in the upper body. To combat this, make sure you don’t make fists with your hands. Instead, lightly close your hands as if you are holding a piece of paper. Also, relax your shoulders as you run.
Tweaking your form in these ways will help you optimize your running form to reduce injury and improve efficiency and performance. Good luck!