The Right Form For Running

Marissa Maaske, a physical therapist at Jaco Rehab, analyzes Jonathan Lyau's running using the Dartfish computer program | Anthony Consillio photo

Marissa Maaske, a physical therapist at Jaco Rehab, analyzes Jonathan Lyau’s running using the Dartfish computer program | Anthony Consillio photo

While at the gym recently, MidWeek editor Don Chapman noticed some people on the treadmills displaying all different forms of running – from how their arms were moving to their overall posture. So he wanted to know: What is the correct way to run?

According to Jonathan Lyau, who has been the top local-born finisher of the Honolulu Marathon from 1993 to 2004 and again from 2006 to 2009 and in 2012, good form includes keeping your shoulders square and relaxed, arms at a 90-degree angle (try running with a walnut in the crook of your elbow), and keeping your hands relaxed.

“Also, look ahead, don’t look down,” he adds. “And your foot landing should be at a mid-foot strike versus a heel-strike.”

Another tip is to keep a stride rate (or cadence) of at least 90 strikes (per foot) per minute. “It can be higher, but not lower,” says Marissa Maaske, a physical therapist at Jaco Rehab. “The less time your foot is hitting the ground, the less chance for injury. Injury occurs in impact.”

Other things to avoid: running a tightrope (when your foot goes in front of the other) and overstriding (your foot is landing well before your center of gravity).

At Jaco Rehab, Maaske has been working with Lyau on his running form with the help of a computer program called Dartfish. “It lets us analyze movement, so we can take a video of someone and then slow it down to see what’s happening,” explains Maaske. “And it’s not just for running. We’ve used it for tennis programs, golf, baseball players on their pitching form. It’s for anyone who wants to look to improve their efficiency and prevent injury.”

Lyau, who also is an assistant cross country coach at Iolani School and offers personalized training through his Personal Best Training program, tried the Dartfish test three years ago and again recently. He has a history of knee problems, specifically with his right knee, and the test helped him see what was possibly causing it.

“The video showed that his right foot was whipping inward when it goes back, compared to his left foot, which was relatively straight,” explains Maaske. “This is called a medial heel whip, and it’s actually coming from his hips, where his hip rotators are weak on that right side. And that may be what’s contributing to his medial knee problem. It causes his knee to constantly turn, and causes extra tension on the knee.”

Jaco Rehab offers the Dartfish test for $179. It’s a two-hour session and includes a link to your video, snapshots of problem areas, personalized exercises, and a PDF file on exercises to work on. For details, visit


* FREEDOM RUN (July 4 at Kailua High School)

* COCONUT CHASE 8K (July 13 at Magic Island)

* ALOHA CROSS COUNTRY CAMP for eighth- to 12th-graders July 23 to 27 at Camp Erdman. For more details, visit

* MANGO DAYS 5K (Aug. 3 at Magic Island)


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