Running Economy… is there such thing as an ‘economical running technique’?

By Courtney Gum BAppSc (Physiotherapy)

This article is a summary of an article written by Isabel Moore ( a Lecturer in Sports Medicine. See reference below.

Both recreational runners and competitive runners monitor running performance in various different ways. Often patients will talk about the pace they run at or the ease at which they run or even how many kilometers they run in a week.

These are all ways that people measure their running performance.running-monitors

In the scientific world there have been a few factors that have been identified as important in monitoring and improving running performance.

  • High maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max)
  • Lactate threshold
  • Running economy (rate of oxygen consumed at a given submaximal running velocity)


Running economy, as mentioned looks at oxygen consumption at a sub-maximal running pace. In this paper Dr Isabel Moore discusses some of the scientific research that has reviewed biomechanical factors that can improve running economy.

  1. Stride frequency (cadence) and/or stride length:

It seems that individuals have a preferred or self-selected cadence or stride length that they use. It has been shown that in more experienced runners their ‘preferred cadence or stride length’ is quite economical in terms of oxygen consumption.

Less experienced runners have lower RE and higher oxygen consumption. This is thought to be because runners learn to ‘self optimize’ their running so that they feel good running e.g. don’t feel as short of breath or don’t feel as fatigued.

  1. Vertical oscillation (VO):

The amount that your body rises and falls when running. Lowering your VO improves your running economy.

  1. Form:

The following have all been shown to improve running economy

  • Increased leg stiffness
  • Less knee extension (straightening) at toe-off
  • Maintaining arm swing
  • Low muscle activation during propulsion


A few other things to consider:

  • At this stage foot strike (fore, mid or heel strike) doesn’t seem to change running economy.
  • There is a lot more research to do in the field of running economy.
  • Some of the more complex research findings have not been mentioned in this article, as they require in depth explanations.



As foris there such thing as an economical running technique”… there certainly seems to be particular modifiable factors that could help an individual improve their running economy.

Watch this space!!


This is the first of a series of Running Performance Articles which Courtney, our Principal Physiotherapist will be posting. To stay informed Like Our FB Page.

Courtney has a specific interest in Running Performance, Rehab and Pre-Hab. Book an appointment today to see how we can help you and your running.


Moore, I. Is there an economical running technique? A review of modifiable biomechanical factors affecting running economy. Sports Medicine. 2016.






Courtney Gum

Courtney Gum

Principal Physiotherapist

Courtney Gum BAppSc (Physiotherapy) – Kinetic Balance Physiotherapy Practice Principal at Kinetic Balance Physiotherapy.

Courtney has developed a wide range of Physiotherapy skills and a complex understanding of the human body.

She has  worked in several highly regarded private practice Physiotherapy clinics prior to opening Kinetic Balance Physiotherapy in Noarlunga.