Is There an Economical Running Technique? A Review of Modifiable Biomechanical Factors Affecting Running Economy

Sports Med. 2016 Jun;46(6):793-807. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0474-4.


Running economy (RE) has a strong relationship with running performance, and modifiable running biomechanics are a determining factor of RE. The purposes of this review were to (1) examine the intrinsic and extrinsic modifiable biomechanical factors affecting RE; (2) assess training-induced changes in RE and running biomechanics; (3) evaluate whether an economical running technique can be recommended and; (4) discuss potential areas for future research. Based on current evidence, the intrinsic factors that appeared beneficial for RE were using a preferred stride length range, which allows for stride length deviations up to 3 % shorter than preferred stride length; lower vertical oscillation; greater leg stiffness; low lower limb moment of inertia; less leg extension at toe-off; larger stride angles; alignment of the ground reaction force and leg axis during propulsion; maintaining arm swing; low thigh antagonist-agonist muscular coactivation; and low activation of lower limb muscles during propulsion. Extrinsic factors associated with a better RE were a firm, compliant shoe-surface interaction and being barefoot or wearing lightweight shoes. Several other modifiable biomechanical factors presented inconsistent relationships with RE. Running biomechanics during ground contact appeared to play an important role, specifically those during propulsion. Therefore, this phase has the strongest direct links with RE. Recurring methodological problems exist within the literature, such as cross-comparisons, assessing variables in isolation, and acute to short-term interventions. Therefore, recommending a general economical running technique should be approached with caution. Future work should focus on interdisciplinary longitudinal investigations combining RE, kinematics, kinetics, and neuromuscular and anatomical aspects, as well as applying a synergistic approach to understanding the role of kinetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / methods*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Shoes