Running faster is apparently really, really straightforward.
Athletic boffins have nailed down the one part of your stride – the one millisecond of your running technique – that is most likely to increase your speed.
It has nothing to do with pumping your arms; nothing to do with engaging your core or tensing your neck or thinking speedy thoughts.
The one part of your action that matters isn’t one you might expect… but it is one that’s easy to improve. According to researchers, it’s all about the force with which your foot hits the ground.
Don’t want to run faster? Psychologist Judith Martin shares the best way to say ‘no’ without making excuses, on The Well. Post continues after audio.
After studying the physical technique of some of the world’s fastest runners, the conclusion is a simple one.
The harder your foot hits the ground, the faster you will run.
As reported in an article by The Huffington Post, “The researchers collected data from 42 runners of varying abilities: Olympic sprinters, high school track athletes and ballet dancers who cross-train by running. They used high-speed motion cameras to measure participants’ gaits and force patterns.”
The article goes on, “They found that a simple two-mass model ― based on the force resulting from the impact of the lower leg (shin, ankle and foot) on the ground, and the force that lifts and supports the rest of the body ― was the equation that most accurately predicted speed.”
That is, those athletes whose ankles, shins and feet hit the ground harder are the ones who have more speed.
"It's actually a fairly unnatural action", former professional British sprinter Craig Pickering told The Guardian. "As soon as the foot hits the floor you pick it up again in front of the body as quick as you can for the next step. Nothing happens behind the body.”
So it might feel unnatural; it might be the thing that feels least comfortable when trying to hurl yourself along an athletics track or up the road to school pick-up. But in reality, driving your foot hard into the floor, and picking it up again as soon it makes contact, might just be the best thing for your sprint speed.
The report was originally published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.