Running form part 6 of 10: Head Position

Our running form priority list is:
1. Foot strike
2. Cadence
3. Breathing pattern
4. Shoulder position/tension
5. Lean/ Fall
6. Head position
7. Arm position/swing
8. Hip position
9. Hand tension
10. Leg return

Head Position


What is Head Position?

Head position is the tilt/angle of our head when we run.gaze1

The Tech:

Why does Head Position position matter?

Running form Head position was originally thought to be important due to the theory that running with a head position looking down or head bent forward meant an imposed restriction to the airway, and in-turn effecting the ability to maximise oxygen intake when running. However, since then studies have shown that head position on tested runners had no impact on heart rate or oxygen consumption. You can read more on those tests here… RUNNERSCONNECT.NET.

So why do we still list it as an important focal point in good running form?

There are physical and mental influences into our running performance. Think of the days where you are completely fit and rested but your heads just not in the game. A mental/psychological influence also may be apparent when we focus on achieving a desired higher cadence. It may feel like we are exerting less energy which we may be perceived as that we are running slower. Or this can work vice versa; If our heads are drooping and looking down directly in front of us and we may perceive it as if we are running poorly and using more energy.

gaze-3Keeping our head up may;

-help our mental perception of our running efficiency

-contribute to our running safety by being aware of hazards in front and around us

-encourage a straight, upright running form

-help contribute to our balance as this is effected by visual information

-may centre and balance our head, taking strain and pressure off our neck and shoulder muscles. Loose, relaxed muscles= fluid movements

-allow us to focus on geographical features as short term visual goals during our run

-it can help to assess the amount of bounce (up and down movement) in our running

gaze2How can we achieve good running Head Position?

Eyes up, looking forward and straight ahead. Aim for our heads to be balanced and centred with our ears inline with our shoulders. Ensure our chin isn’t jutting forward. Gaze to the horizon or at least 20 metres in front of us. In instances such as trail running, there may be hazards that require us to look down. Aim to keep our head up and scan downwards with our eyes. When we do have to look down with our heads aim to be self aware and minimise the amount of time doing so. When we run fatigue we may be more inclined to drop our head. We may benefit from making regular form checks to consciously adjust our form and head position, until we can keep manage this habitually.

The Video: 

We asked Chris the running coach at GORUN Australia for his professional contribution:

Chris: “When we think about running form, head position is often towards the bottom of the list of things we look at, but it is actually very important for our body alignment, as well as our overall attitude.  If you think of the runner who is looking up at the sky or down at their feet, versus the runner who is calmly looking straight ahead.  Who seems more focused, relaxed and in control of their running?  
There are always exceptions such as British marathoner Paula Radcliffe whose head famously seemed to wobble all over the place when she ran, but in general looking straight ahead at an angle of about 45 degrees should give you a good, relaxed head position.
One of the most common traits I see at the moment amongst beginner and intermediate runners is that they stare at their feet, particularly when they are getting tired.  As I result, I tend to encourage the runners that I coach to “run strong,” which basically encourages them to keep their chest up and eyes looking about 5 metres ahead of them when they are running.  That prompt seems to work and keeps them from either staring at their feet or lifting their chin too high as they run.”
If you would like to chat to Chris about improving your running or other services that Go Run Australia offer, check out or feel free to contact him via email



Remember before making any form changes or starting out running, it is best practice to consult with medical professionals who can assess your health risks, potential for injury, and consider gradual, progressive form change introduction to allow the body to condition to new movements.

Stay tuned for our next Running Form blog post on Arm Position/Swing.



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