Running Gait Analysis: Distance Running Form & Gait Cycle Made Simple

Running Gait Analysis: Distance Running Form & Gait Cycle Made Simple

Understanding the Running Gait Cycle

I’ve received a number of emails in the last few months, from runners, coaches and therapists asking if I can further elaborate on some of the technical gait analysis terminology used to describe different aspects of running form.

If you’re like me, and have a geeky interest in all things running technique related, you’ll appreciate how important it is for us to all be speaking using common terms.

Terms like ‘loading response’ and ‘terminal stance’ trip off the tongue all too easily when, like me you spend all day assessing running gait. So I wanted to take five minutes to film the video above. Hopefully this video on running technique better explaining the fundamentals of running form and the phases of the running gait cycle.

Grab yourself a coffee and have a watch 🙂

Running Technique Quick Guide

Just as an aside… the video footage I picked to use in this video by no way is meant to be an example of perfect running form. Far from it in fact! However the technique the runner in the middle is showing us is very common, displaying aspects like an over stride and heavy heel strike that you’ll see from recreational runners all around the world!

Running Gait Analysis: Distance Running Form & Gait Cycle Made Simple

Gait Analysis Tips for Assessing Running Technique

When I started observing runners, assessing running form and trying to better understand the link between variations we see in running technique and the injuries we see runners suffering with, I was offered three pieces of advice that continue to serve me well to this day:

  • Say what you see; don’t over-complicate the issue. There are some distinct limitations to what you can and cannot see when it comes to video gait analysis. Bear in mind that even the most sophisticated 3D gait analysis set-ups in research labs struggle. These systems often find it tough to reliably quantify variables such as femoral rotation in the transverse plane. Focus on what you can see with the resources you have to hand, rather than fooling yourself into ‘seeing’ something that isn’t there.
  • Pay equal attention to swing phase as stance phase. It’s important to understand how the way in which the swinging leg moves affects where and how the foot strikes the ground at initial contact. This ultimately alters how the limb begins stance phase. Focusing mainly on stance phase when the foot is grounded will only tell you half the story!
  • Be sure to observe as many angles as possible when performing your running gait analysis. It almost goes without saying that you need to build a full picture of running technique in all planes of motion, to fully understand the running gait cycle.

If you find this kind running form specific of content useful, or if you have a question about running gait, let me know either in the comments below, or over in the comments section on YouTube.

About The Author 

James has an academic background in Sport Rehabilitation and a special interest in Applied Biomechanics. He currently coaches a large number of Runners and Triathletes across all levels of ability and performance. He's grown a strong reputation for enabling athletes to improve their running performance and overcome running injuries through improving their Running Technique and developing Running Specific Strength.



  • This was excellent! So clear. I would love more videos on running mechanics. Keep up the great work, I find your content so valuable. Thanks!

    • Thanks 🙂

      I really appreciate your support. More videos to come soon!

      I’m going to try to strike a balance between “total geek-fest” videos and those with simple practical “how-to” application for all types of runner.

      Watch this space!

  • Thank you James! This was great, valuable and good explained video 🙂

  • I’ve recently started running again and I want to improve my mechanics to reduce the risk of suffering another injury, and I and to improve my overall effiency. With this in mind, which of your videos should I consult first? Perhaps there is one or even two adjustments I could make that would cause other mechanics to self correct?

    Thank you in advance for any advice you offer.


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