What is ChiRunning?

As runners, we are often given well meaning advice from non-runners: ‘You shouldn’t run so much, it’s bad for your joints’. With over 40% of runners getting some form of injury every year, maybe they have a point.

ChiRunning is a running technique focused on reducing the impact of running on the joints and muscles of body and therefore avoiding the onset of running related injuries.

In the words of the ChiRunning founder, Danny Dreyer,

    “Its not running that’s bad for your body, its how you run that damages the body”.

What is ChiRunning?

ChiRunning takes the principles of Tai Chi and applies them to the sport of running.
The technique teaches the runner to use the core muscles, upper body and gravity to do the hard work, rather than placing all the strain on the leg muscles.

ChiRunning promotes the use of a midfoot landing rather with the heel first (heelstrike).

Why should we avoid a heel strike?

Heel strike is common for many runners, thanks to the protection our cushioned running shoes have given us over the years. If we were to run barefoot, our body would not allow the heel to hit the ground first ahead of the body (Try it out for yourself). Naturally, our body cannot take this force through the joints.

Everytime we land with a heelstrike in front of the body, it’s like putting on the brakes to our flow of running. In addition, we send additional force up through the ankle, knee and hip joints and tighten up the muscles in the shin area. We then use the rear leg to power our body forward, pushing off from the toes. This places added pressure on the foot and calf/achilles area of this rear leg. This action is repeated throughout the run, constantly braking with the front leg and powering the body forward with the rear leg.

With ChiRunning, we learn to land with a midfoot strike and limit the pressure on the joints and muscles of the legs. By letting the body fall forward from the ankles upward, we let gravity do some of the work, and take the pressure of the legs.

Wwhat are the main ChiRunning principles?

1. Posture : Aligning the posture and relaxing the muscles
2. Falling : Letting the body fall forwards with gravity from the ankles
3. Picking up Feet : Midfoot landing, relaxed legs and avoiding heel striking
4. Arm Swing: Incorporating upper body and core
5. Cadence : Increase the cadence to limit the heel strike

At one stage we were all ChiRunners.
Look at any child running and you will see they never heel strike. They let their body fall forward, and their feet just keep up with their forward fall. They look effortless and natural and can run all day. Our lifestyle over our teenage and adult years have impacted our posture and movement patterns and unfortunately most of us run with tense, tight bodies.

If only it was as easy as changing overnight. Like any practice (yoga, tai chi, pilates etc), ChiRunning works on the basis of gradual progression. We recommend in each run you focus on one of the principles of the technique. Like perfecting a swimming stroke after years of swimming, it takes patience but the reward is worth the effort.

Find out more about ChiRunning workshops