Running faster isn’t just about getting fitter, it's about getting a proper running form too. A cursory glance at the way Mo Farrah moves should be enough to tell you that the four-minute-mile elites run differently for most of us mere mortals plodding out 5km Park Runs on a Saturday morning.
Perfecting ground contact time, cadence and the position of your body can shave minutes off your PBs and thankfully new technology is here to help.
With the best GPS running watches, chest straps and even socks tracking our every move, modern day athletes-in-the-making can get real-time coaching to help us glide like an effortless pro.
Because running is something we’ve been able to do without thinking since we were children, we tend to think we know how to run. The truth is that, just like swimming or skiing, developing an efficient running technique requires just as much training as any other sport.
Here’s our pick of the six of the best running gadgets for improving your running form.
Garmin Forerunner 620 Running Dynamics
The Garmin Forerunner 620 is one of the most advanced running watches when it comes to analysing not just how far you run, but also how well you run. The key stats to note are cadence, vertical oscillation and ground contact time.
When you pair it with Garmin's HRM-Run heart rate chest strap you get access to 'Running Dynamics' metrics such as Cadence (the rate at which your feet strike the floor, 180 strikes per minute being somewhere near ideal), Vertical Oscillation (the total vertical movement of your torso) and Ground Contact Time (the amount of time your feet spend on the tarmac or trail).
While you’re running you can monitor how well you’re moving against these key running form stats. You can also set the watch to alert you with beeps when you exceed or fall short of your targets.
All of the data can by synced with the Garmin Connect smartphone app and web tools Guide to Garmin Connect.
Wahoo TICKR Run
The Wahoo TICKR Run is a heart rate chest strap with added running smarts. It measures your running form across three dimensions (vertical, horizontal side-to-side and horizontal forwards-backwards) to create a picture of what they call Running Smoothness.
Just like the Garmin it tracks cadence without the need for a shoe pod, vertical oscillation and ground contact time. All of the gathered running form data is paired with a partner smartphone app via Bluetooth. There’s built-in storage too so you can run now, sync later if you don’t like to run with your phone.
Polar Stride Sensor
If you’re not much of a fan of chest straps, and you don’t mind going a bit old-school, then the Bluetooth Smart Polar Stride Sensor might be your best weapon of choice. Compatible with dozens of leading fitness apps, including Polar Beat, this walnut-sized sensor, can be attached to your laces to measure your running cadence and stride length.
Over time it shows how your running performance changes with Polar's unique Running Index feature as the handy barometer.It’s also shock and water resistant and compatible with iPhone 4S and later.
The smartest socks you’re ever likely to own, the Sensoria socks keep tabs on all the usual running data including steps, cadence, distance, GPS, ascent/descent, pace and calories burnt. But their real strength lies in embedded e-textile sensors that monitor pressure and force to detect where your foot lands on the ground while a 3-axis accelerometer in the anklet provides motion pattern and activity detection.
When paired with the Sensoria smartphone app using Bluetooth Smart, they become even more powerful bringing near real-time running form coaching with over-the-earphones foot strike feedback and also access to tools like a handy cadence metronome to help you get your footfall near to that magic 180 SPM rate.
Lumo Life and Lumo Back
These are not strictly running devices but the Lumo Back and Lumo Lift can both be used indirectly to improve your form. Great running form starts with good posture and both of these wearables are designed to give you just that.
Worn around your lower back and core, Lumo Back uses accelerometry to detect minute movements and sense how you’re sitting, standing and things like how many steps you take, how long you sit, and how you sleep. If the devices spots you slouching it’ll give you a gentle nudge to engage that core and correct your posture.
The Lumo Lift clips anywhere on your chest and shoulders using an interchangeable magnetic clasp andfocuses on improving how you hold your chest, shoulders, and upper back. There’s a Coaching session setting thatprovides gentle vibrations when you slouch.
Metronome App: Time Guru
While the Garmin and Sensoria socks can give you almost real time coaching to hit the ideal cadence, there’s nothing quite like hearing the beeps of a 180BPM to focus your brain and your feet on hitting the right tempo. Time Guru is an app that’s really designed for musicians but the principles (and the tech) work for runners too.
The app does all the things you’d expect a metronome to do, but it’s killer feature for improving your running form is that you can selectively –or randomly – mute the sound. Musicians use this to test themselves to see if they’re keeping time and you can do the same with your foot strike too.
(iOS – $2.99 & Android – $1.99), Time Guru
Master your running watch
Why not check out some of our other guides to taking full advantage of your running tech: