Improve Your Form
Altra is committed to helping runners avoid injury by teaching efficient, low-impact running technique. Just like any other sport, you'd probably take lessons to get the most out of it. Whether you are just beginning to run or preparing for your next race, we've created the "learn to run initiative" to help runners run better and healthier.
Run tall, run proud! Straighten your back and push your chest and hips forward. This allows gravity to help ease you into your next step. Keep your shoulders back and relaxed and never bend at the waist. Lock your eyes on the horizon and avoid looking down at your feet or up into the sky.
Quick Tip: To reset your posture, quickly pump your arms forward and backward at a 45-degree angle. This brings your hips and chest forward and keeps your back straight.
- Stand tall, gaze forward
- Keep chest forward and shoulders back and relaxed
- Don't bend at the waist
Elite runners have very little arm movement when running. They quickly pop their elbows back and let them passively recover while the other elbow is popping back. They also keep their arms moving in a front-to-back motion instead of a side-to-side motion.
To increase efficiency, keep your arms compact and close to your chest at less than a 90-degree angle. Don't allow your elbows to come forward past your hips or your fists to cross the midline of your chest.
Quick Tip: Use Heavy Hands or 1–2 pound hand weights on easy runs to find your most efficient arm movement and angle.
- Short, compact, relaxed arm movement
- Pump back and recover forward, don't sway side to side
- Elbows should not extend in front of the waist unless sprinting
Low Impact Landing
A proper, low-impact foot strike is the result of proud posture, compact arms, and quick steps. Thinking about your foot strike can cause lower leg fatigue, cramps, or other problems, and should be avoided. Each runner has their own unique foot strike, molded by genetics, running surface, and speed of running.
Most runners should land close to midfoot with their foot parallel to the ground. A slight heel landing or forefoot strike is acceptable as long as the foot hits the ground underneath your body. Over striding, excessive heel striking and running on your toes should be avoided as they cause excessive stress and impact.
Quick Tip: As you run, consciously remember to slightly bend your knees and run a little bit quieter.
- Land softly underneath a bent knee
- Avoid over striding and excessive heel striking
A high cadence, or quick steps, is proven to reduce impact and improve foot strike and running efficiency. Studies have shown that recreational, chronically injured runners run with a slow cadence, whereas elite and efficient runners have a cadence of above 170 steps per minute. Running barefoot can quickly improve cadence and help you master proper running technique. Start by increasing your cadence by 10–15 steps per minute (2–3 steps per leg in a 20 second period.) Once you've adapted to that, increase it again by another 10–15 steps per minute until you settle on a comfortable, efficient cadence between 165–180 steps per minute. Cadence changes very little with speed, so you can practice cadence on all types of workouts—even while running in place!
Quick Tip: Count the steps one foot takes in a twenty-second time period. An ideal cadence of 174–180 steps per minute consists of 29–30 steps in a twenty seconds.
- 165 plus: 10:59 min/mile to 9:00 min/mile
- 170 plus: 8:59 min/mile to 7:00 min/mile
- 175 plus: 6:59 min/mile to 6:00 min/mile
- 180 plus: 5:59 min/mile and 5:00 min/mile
Injury Prevention Tip:
Aim to run at least 1/3 of your mileage on natural or uneven surfaces such as grass, cobblestones, or dirt trails-this will balance your muscle structure & strengthen your stabilizing muscles.
Right now, many running stores teach running technique classes. Ask your local store! If they don't have a class, encourage them to start one.
Altra also encourages all runners to do at least some barefoot running. Running truly barefoot teaches proper technique, strengthens feet, and has a multitude of other benefits.
How To Transition
Why Do I Need to Transition?
A lifetime of wearing shoes with elevated heels has neutralized your Achilles and lower calf muscles. They will need some time to redevelop! Depending on your foot and calf strength, many runners will experience some lower calf tightness for a few days to a few weeks when transitioning to a Zero Drop™ platform. This is caused by the lower leg loading farther and lower than it would in a shoe with an elevated heel.
This additional loading allows the leg to push off the ground more powerfully and activate different parts of the lower leg muscles. This can cause tightness, but it's a good thing! It's evidence of how much power traditional shoes were robbing from your stride. Once your muscles adjust, your lower legs will be stronger, more powerful, and more dynamic.
How to have a Great Transition
This transition guide is for moderately cushioned Zero Drop™ shoes such as the Instinct and Lone Peak. Higher cushioning models will require very little transition time. Light cushioning models provide greater strengthening of the legs and feet, but require a much longer transition time. While the average Altra customer transitions to one of our moderate cushion shoes in about three weeks, transition times will vary by age, tendon elasticity, and other factors.
Similar to any time you introduce a new shoe into your routine, we recommend rotating your new Zero Drop™ footwear with your old shoes for the first few weeks. Start using them on short, easy workouts at first, and then work your way up to harder workouts. Try this schedule to allow your muscles and tendons the necessary time to adapt back to their natural state:
Listen to Your Body
If you experience any discomfort or excessive soreness, reduce your mileage or intensity to allow your body the necessary time to adapt.
Working on your form will greatly help your transition. Take a running technique class, video yourself, watch world-class runners, or be actively engaged in fine-tuning your running technique. Check out www.AltraRunBetter.com for more information. We also recommend strengthening your feet. Exercises such as pulling a towel in with your toes, standing on one foot, and running barefoot will help give you strong, dynamic feet. Just make sure to ease into it. After a successful transition, you are on your way to becoming a stronger, healthier and better runner!
Fit & Feel
Having a properly fitting running shoe goes a long way when you are running long distances. This is why we engineered our footwear the way that we did. It is imperative to have a proper fit for your feet to run as natural as they are able. When going around barefoot there is no constraint on the foot. The toes splay, the foot relaxes and more power is put into the muscles.
To maximize the benefits of Altra Footwear, we encourage you to follow these fitting suggestions:
- Please allow at least ½ inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
- Your Zero Drop™ Footwear should feel as relaxed and natural as possible.
- If the fit is correct, it may feel "too loose" around your toes and may take a day or two for your feet to get used to spreading out.
- Fitting this way will allow your feet to become more STABLE, more COMFORTABLE, and more POWERFUL.
By following proper fit and footwear, you let your body do what it is naturally inclined to do. There is no need for additional stability, supports, airs, gels, shocks, or the other. You then have a running experience that will reduce injury while running longer and further.
Altra Alternate Lacing
For runners with a wider forefoot, or those just looking for more space for their feet to relax, we're sharing our customer preferred and personal favorite lacing system. This unique system allows the forefoot to expand and breathe while securing the heel and preventing “lace creep."
- Start by running the lace straight across the bottom, over the tongue and downward into the shoe. Make sure both sides of the remaining lace are equal.
- Without crossing, skip under to the second set of holes, then over to the third set of holes.
- From the third holes to the fourth holes, cross the laces over the top of each other and insert downward into the holes on the opposite side. Continue this crossing technique until you reach the second-to-last set of holes.
- String the lace into the last holes upward from underneath. Create a small loop with each end by threading the lace back into the same hole.
- Slide the remaining lace from the opposite side into the hole.