Running is often described as a series of jumps.
When our foot strikes the ground we naturally – and partly as a result of gravity and our biomechanics – want to displace most of the energy we are subjected to upward.
We are much less efficient at translating these vertical forces into a more horizontal direction. This is obviously crucial for optimum running whatever your distance.
Norwegian physicist Otto Kanstad believes that running should be seen as a series of falls (not jumps). He wants to use gravity as a propulsive aid and not as something to be overcome.
The basic premise of Kanstad’s technique – which he believes works for runners of all speeds from sprinters to marathoners – is to move the free leg forwards before the leg about to make footstrike hits the ground. It is almost a mistiming of the running stride. This creates a forward fall which needs to be recovered. It is this that when ‘caught’ enables the runner to generate greater forward speed. Gravity is being worked with and not against.
With this technique, the arms become very important as a
counterbalance to leg movement. You have to change to almost opposite the way you are used to using your arms and legs.
Tests on runners who have learnt to run this way have identified 10% savings in oxygen costs. Apparently, Michael Johnson – world 400m record holder and Olympic champion – is an exemplar of this gravity-assisted running.
Kanstad, S.O. & Kononoff, A. (2015) Gravity-driven Horizontal Locomotion: Theory and Experiment. Proceedings of the Royal Society, A. 471(2181). https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.2015.0287.