Running posture is all well and good, you say, but if it doesn't make you faster, then why bother? The good news is that posture isn't a zero sum game, and it can help you move not only more efficiently and safely, but also more quickly. So, if running faster is your goal (say, if you're a sprinter), then let's take a look at the parts of the upper body that have the most effect on speed and how they should be positioned.
Your head should still be facing the horizon, but if you're sprinting, it helps be looking down about three steps in front of you. Sprinters should lean their torso forward quite a lot in the opening phase of the sprint, moving to a more upright posture (but still leaning forward slightly) by the time they reach maximum speed [source: Davies].
While there's little doubt that arms provide stability, there is some belief that they can help boost your speed as well. The motion of swinging your arms can actually assist your legs as they swing forward. [source: Hahn; Jones]. At the same time, still be sure to keep your shoulders and hands loose so you can save energy for your legs. For sprinting, arm movement should bring your hands swinging from your cheeks to your hips. And you can forget the whole relaxing thing with sprinting; you can relax at the finish line. Instead, use powerful arm swings to help propel your body forward.
Of course, a lot of research remains to be done to confirm or refute the traditional (and not-so-traditional) wisdom on running posture. You'll see lots of elite runners doing all kinds of unconventional things, and it's true that some coaches think that running form is purely personal. Ultimately, proper running posture helps you breathe and move more efficiently, allowing you to run either as long or as fast as you like. Achieving it can take a lot of practice and experience, but that's part of the fun of running.
Learn even more about the best running posture, stride and form by visiting the links on the next page.