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Runners, what’s the drill?


Hands up, who performed drills during their last run? The room suddenly feels silent, right?

Running isn’t often considered as a technical sport, like golf, or boxing could be. It seems that most of us are able to jog, even just to catch the last train home without ‘learning’ how to do so.

But you’ll find yourself surprised on the impact running drills can have on your next race. They will help you improve your running form and running economy.

Why does running economy matters?

Every runner has a certain amount of oxygen within their body at a specific time (also called volume of oxygen, VO2). Now, imagine you are more economical with your VO2. It means that you’ll have more capacity ‘in the tank’. So you’ll be able to do more with it: run faster and sustain a pace for a longer time. 

There are many ways to improve your VO2, but it is important to understand your running form and technique will have a significant effect on it - it is not uncommon to see runners not being able to stand properly or maintain their form at the end of a marathon for example. In short, with a more efficient running technique, you should have more energy to maintain your form and avoid injury.

Where drills benefit

  • They help you to warm up before an interval session or a race. When doing drills, you raise your body temperature and fire up all you’ll need for an intensive effort.
  • You improve your running technique! Drills teach you good posture, foot placement, movement. By improving your technique you also improve your running economy and get ready to run faster.
  • If you tend to over-stride, think about introducing running drills. Keeping the momentum and only hitting the ground below you will put less stress on your knees. Bye knee injuries!
  • You can get stronger! Performing drills helps not only engaging your quads and calves, but also your core muscles, hip flexors (which are often subject to injuries!) and all key running muscles. There is no secret then that the stronger your leg muscles are, the more energy you can produce and the faster you can run and hit your PB.

When should I practice drills?

When running interval sessions, drills are usually performed after your initial warm up. Ideally, you’ll want to do these exercises (which we will detail below) on a flat, soft surface (such as rubberised track) on a 10-20 meters distance (for each). Feel free to repeat drill exercises 2-3 times in a session so that you can practice more and correct your technique as you go.

Experts also recommend to practice them consistently to notice optimal results and perform drills once to twice a week.

What to focus on when running drills 

Make sure to keep good form. The objective of drills is not to be the fastest or get them done as quickly as possible to move on to the main set. They are designed to help you warm up, avoid injury and make sure that you train your body with the right form that will be replicated during training sessions and on race day.

To be able to do this, what you can do for example is to repeat these exercises a couple of times in a row. The first time, try familiarising yourself with the exercise. On the third time, you might be able to reach a bit further, have a better control of your movement and perfect your technique. 

Best running drills analysed

High knees: elevate your heart rate and engage your full body

Targeted muscles:

  • Lower body (quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, hip flexors…)
  • Core for stabilisation

Our expert tip: 

  • Lift up your knees to your chest, try to reach a 90 degree angle
  • Brace your core and try not to collapse on your knees. Stand upright!
  • Coordinate the opposite arm (as you would when running). Kick your opposite elbow backward to help balancing yourself.

Want to try an advanced version?

Do three high knee and block on the third one. Left, right, left! Block for 2 seconds and continue. This will challenge your balance and arm coordination.

Butt kicks: get stronger hamstrings

Targeted muscles:

  • Hamstrings (which will help acceleration and speed)
  • Glutes
  • Quads stretcher

Our expert tip:

  • Bring your heel to your buttocks. Try to touch them and bring your leg back down as the other comes back up as quickly as possible.
  • Make sure to stay upright and keep your chest nice and open
  • Coordinate the opposite arm (as you would when running). Kick your opposite elbow backward.

Fast feet: improve your cadence

Targeted muscles:

All legs muscles will be engaged. However, you might feel these more on your calves first.

Our expert tip:

  • Slightly lean forward
  • Coordinate the opposite arm (as you would when running). Kick your opposite elbow backward to train your arms to explosive moves.
  • Bring slightly your legs higher. If your legs don’t lift enough, it will surely train your cardio, but this will not train them to get quicker to the ground. 
  • Step on the ball of your feet/ tip of your toes, not in your heels

Want to try an advanced version?

Go faster, challenge yourself to hold on for 30 seconds longer. You can also try fast coordinated arms punches at the same time.

Hamstring sweeps: stretch the back of your legs

Targeted muscles: hamstrings, which actually have a very high re-ocurrence rate of injury. 

Our expert tip:

  • Keep one of your legs bent and extend the other straight as you walk forward and bend down
  • Align both knees together. If you struggle with balance, hold on to the bent leg. 

Want to try an advanced version?

To add in difficulty, keep a straight back as you reach downwards. If it is not possible, curl your back to reach downwards. 

B-skip: avoid overstriding

Targeted muscles:

  • Hip flexors
  • Core (used for stability to stand upright and balance on one leg)
  • Upper leg muscles

Our expert tip:

  • Bring your knee up at a 90 degree anglewhile skipping on the ball of your right foot
  • Extend the leg forward and back down to make a big circular motion with your lifted leg
  • Alternate legs as you move forward 
  • Coordinate your arms with your legs, as you would when running
  • Keep your body straight

Carioca: improve hip mobility

Targeted muscles: quads, glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves… all your leg muscles!

Our expert tip:

  • Stand sideway, cross your right foot in front of your left 
  • Move your left foot to the side until you return to your starting position
  • Continue this way. Once you reach one 

Want to try an advanced version?

  • Run it instead of walking it.
  • Go as fast as you can while maintaining good form and try not looking at your feet but straight ahead.