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Orange County, California

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  • Greg Hodel

What can be learned from Michael Johnson's running form?

I’ve always wondered how Michael Johnson’s running mechanics helped him run faster. He has said that he focused on being upright so that his weight was over his legs allowing more force to be applied to the ground. I was recently pulling a sled and felt a lag when my foot landed, so I tried to pull my foot back longer in the air and contact the ground further back. It allowed me to generate more horizontal force on contact rather than contacting with a more vertical lower leg and having to wait for my leg to be in a position to pull the sled. This worked well, so I tried it without the sled. It felt good and I noticed that my body was more upright and my foot felt like it was contacting the ground further under my body. There was less effort required of my legs during ground contact, and the ground contact time felt shorter.


I thought maybe Michael Johnson pulled his foot further under his body, and I checked some video. His foot appears to contact the ground at about the same point as the other runners, but it seems to have a more continuous horizontal speed after contacting the ground. Some other athletes appear to have a slight break in the horizontal movement during ground contact, perhaps due to a harder downward contact and recovery. I checked Wade Van Niekerk’s mechanics and noticed that his foot appeared to have a similar horizontal flowing motion. I may just be seeing what I want to see, but it seems to be good mechanics whether or not these runners did something unique.

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