As a running coach and avid learner, I regularly come across various running techniques that experts claim to be the “ideal” running posture. Two of the most popular methods include ChiRunning and the Pose Method.
Experts from both running styles claim each is the best method for more efficient and injury-free running.
What runner doesn’t want to go faster and avoid injury all thanks to a few tweaks? Sounds pretty ideal, right?
Does Running Form Really Prevent Injuries?
It’s important to understand that different methods work for some, while others don’t work at all. Changing running technique can actually cause more harm than good, if not implemented under the guidance of a coach.
- Your natural running gait can take years to change
- Your natural running gait works for your body
- BUT we do know a few pieces help reduce injury risk
If you’re determined to make changes, read my 4 most important areas for how to change running form. Those are the basics you can implement without feeling overwhelmed.
We also have a full 5 week Running Form Course for Beginners with drills and follow along videos to make changing your form easy and natural.
That said, incorporating a new running technique has been life changing for some runners, so let’s break down what each method is, the science behind more efficient and pain-free running.
Studies on both Chi Running and the Pose Method are relatively new and therefore don’t show performance over a lifetime.
What is ChiRunning?
ChiRunning is a holistic and mindfulness-based running form that combines the inner focus and flow of Tai Chi to incorporate the correct biomechanics of running and walking.
Conceptualized by ultra runner Danny Dreyer, the guiding principle of Chi Running is to move from the body’s core, allowing legs and arms to follow in a flowing, relaxed state.
Elements of Chi Running
The idea behind Chi Running is that energy moves from the center of the body and flows throughout the rest.
Before you stop reading thinking this is all hippie dippy nonsense, the point of Chi Running is to improve efficiency and minimize injury.
In layman’s terms, Chi Running relies on gravity pulling the body forward and picking up the feet to control the fall.
Chi running has a lot of focus on good posture, with the head, shoulders, hips, and feet recommended to be in a straight line.
If the feet move too far ahead of the straight line, they will act as ‘brakes’.
Dreyer compares ‘regular’ non-chi running technique to inefficient driving with one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake.
No matter what style of running you follow, having a strong core is essential for injury prevention.
In Chi Running a strong core will keep your body posture straight, which keeps your joints in alignment and lessens the workload of the legs.
A slight forward lean uses gravity to help propel the body forward, again taking load off the legs.
Lean from your ankles and not your waist and aim to land with your foot in line with the hip.
Land on the Midfoot
Another principle has to do with heel-striking, which occurs when the foot strikes the ground in front of the hips.
Most traditional running shoes with a high heel drop are designed to make heel striking more prevalent.
Running in this manner produces a braking effect that increases impact and the risk of injury.
Landing on the midfoot, on the other hand, reduces impact and removes the brakes. Your foot landing under your center of mass allows for a smoother and more economical running style that saves energy and results in faster running speeds.
When you run this way, you land on the balls of your feet. Interestingly, this is the same part of the foot you land on when jumping rope, running sideways, skipping, and running backwards.
Aside from the core muscles, the rest of the body should be loose. It’s not uncommon for runners to hold tension in the shoulders and face when they run. Relaxed muscles will increase speed.
Focus on the present
Rather than worry about the miles ahead, the weather, or what you’re going to eat when you finish, focus on how your body feels.
This will help you learn to recognize if you require fuel or hydration or if you feel pain somewhere.
What is Pose Running Method?
The Pose Method, is based on the idea that there is an optimal pose, or position, for athletes in every sport.
Sports scientist and 1970s USSR Olympic coach Nicholas Romanov studied the movement of both human athletes and animals to determine the role physics plays in efficient movement.
He believed that, in order to reduce the risk of injury and improve performance, runners should move with the same grace as a ballet dancer or gymnast.
His analysis determined that the body moves through a series of poses as it moves through space as a result of proper positioning.
Elements of the Pose Method
Pose Running believes that the ideal running movement requires centered balance to support the body under the force of gravity. Ultimately, the goal is to move from one pose into the next as quickly as possible, which improves cadence.
While ChiRunning is often talking about the straight line from your ankles to head, Pose talks about the S Shape.
The three concepts of the Pose Method are:
The pose is essentially a whole-body position that sets your body in a S-like shape. This is the basis of the pose method, and is also the reason why the method itself is named after the pose position.
One of the most defining features of the Pose Method is that you’ll land on your forefoot, i.e the balls of your feet, with a slightly bent knee and hips over the balls of the foot.
This is also known as the running pose.
Falling forward is the next principle that’s key for moving your body forward.
As you try to hold and practice the ‘S’ position without any forward motion, you will feel as if you’re going to fall – hence the name.
It’s all about taking advantage of the natural state of unbalance your body will get into when you get into the pose position.
The pull involves pulling the foot underneath the hip after the fall sensation.
You’ll need to use your hamstring muscles to ‘pull’ your foot directly under your hip during the pull.
The method says that pulling right may make you feel lighter on your feet, and you may even notice that your cadence is a little higher than usual.
How the Pose Method Works
The theory is that runners pass through the pose, fall forward from the support of the foot, and then pull the foot off the ground.
Teachers of this method claim that moving through this pose efficiently, helps prevent injury, and enables runners to run faster and longer, the idea being that the farther you fall, the faster you go.
Romanov’s observations say that the further ahead of the body the foot falls (aka heel strike) when striking the ground, the longer the body takes to move through the pose.
This results in excessive load to the ligaments, tendons, and muscles, which leads to injury.
Another thing to note is that trying to change your strike pattern after years of being a heel or midfoot striker can put a lot of strain on our calves and Achilles tendon.
Chi Running vs Pose Method
While Chi Running and the Pose Running do share some similarities, there are subtle differences between the two running techniques. Both styles emphasize efficiency and injury prevention.
As a running coach, I think there are pieces of both that truly work together for maximum benefit. I’ve never prescribed to the one way is best idea.
Breaking down specific nuances, you can see the ways they differ. You’ll notice I’ve offered a green check in front of the pieces where I’ve seen more data to support that specific piece is useful.
Using The Calves
Chi Running – “Contrary to popular belief, your calves are not necessary for endurance running.” Keep your entire leg limp throughout the movement. Unfortunately that statement doesn’t allow people to spring off the ground.
✅Pose Method – The calves are your powerhouse for propelling the body forward. Push through the ground with your foot, allowing your leg to use its power from foot to glute.
How Your Foot Should Land
✅Chi Running – Land with a mid-foot strike to keep the feet directly underneath the body, or even just behind.
Pose Method – Land with a forefoot strike, or on the ball of the foot to fully engage the lower leg for maximum power. This keeps your knee and ankle always in alignment. After landing on the forefoot, the heel will touch the ground as it moves through the stride.
What Your Leg Motion Should Be
Chi Running- Bend your knee (leg kicks behind you). This motion requires little muscular effort, and according to the theory, with greater levels of relaxation this motion will occur almost by itself.
✅Pose Method– Raise your knee (looks like high knees) to drive forward, while the standing leg should fully straighten. You’ll notice many barefoot runners keep the standing knee slightly bent, losing the full force of pushing off the ground and creating quad dominance.
Incorporating the Forward Lean
ChiRunning – Lean from the ankles as if falling forward and use this for momentum.
✅Pose Method – Stand tall, but act as though you are being pulled from your hips forward. Too much forward lean prevents the core and glutes from activating, reducing power.
Similarities between ChiRunning and Pose Method of Running
The two running techniques overlap in a number of areas, including:
- Running Cadence: 180 steps per minute is ideal regardless of pace
- Tall: Stay tall to keep your lungs open for better breathing
- Arms: Swing back at 90 degrees, not forward and not across your body
- Low Profile Shoes: Keep shoes pretty natural so you can feel your feet on the ground
- Foot Strength: Do exercises to strengthen feet for total stability and better running
- Practice: Think about your form on every run for about 10 minutes after warming up, then let it go. Then check in again.
Should I Change My Running Technique?
I personally am of the belief that if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. There is a lot of talk about “proper” running form, and here’s what I say to that:
If you are chronically injured, then, yes you probably should consider changing something about the way you run. Maybe it’s the technique, but it could be something as simple as rotating your running shoes.
Talk with a professional before DIYing your injuries.
We have a full 5 week Running Form Course for Beginners with drills and follow along videos to make changing your form easy and natural.
If you’re happy with your running, then stick with what you’re doing!
If you want to learn more about Chi Running and the Pose Method, be sure to check out the following books:
- Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running, by Danny Dreyer — I have this one and found it to be an easy read.
- The Cool Impossible by Eric Orton
- Dr. Nicholas Romanov’s Pose Method of Running
- The Running Revolution: How to Run Faster, Farther, and Injury-free for Life, by Nicholas Romanov
Key to Injury-Free Running? Strength Training
No matter whether you choose to adapt a new running technique or stick with your natural motion, core, glute, and hip strength will help prevent injuries.
Incorporating regular strength workouts that focus on the hips, glutes, and core will go a long way and they don’t have to add a lot of time to your already packed schedule.
In addition to the videos I have on my YouTube channel, here are additional strength routines:
- Resistance band workout for hips and glutes
- Hip mobility drills to loosen tight hips
- Stability ball exercises for hips
- 30 Day Core Program – exactly what you need for injury prevention in 10 minutes
Other ways to connect with Amanda
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