Invented by ultramarathoner Danny Dreyer, ChiRunning marries the physiological, mental and spiritual aspects of tai chi with sound mechanics to minimize effort and reduce the stress runners put on their bodies. One of the guiding principles of tai chi is the idea that energy moves from one's center and flows throughout the rest of the body. In Chinese philosophy, chi is the energy force that moves all things. By focusing on this energy, you can guide and direct it. This practice, tai chi, is a series of movements that is part exercise, part meditation.
Over time, Dreyer adapted the lessons of tai chi into his running and realized that as his posture improved, so did his form. And in his book, "ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running," Dreyer attributes most running injuries to poor or improper form.
The physical part of ChiRunning promotes leaning forward so that a runner's momentum is carrying him or her through each step, letting gravity bear some of the burden. This naturally shortens each stride and softens the landing. Alignment and core strength are also critical components, since most runners slump their shoulders or hang their heads. Staying aligned is important because this distributes the weight more evenly throughout the skeletal system rather than leaving the heavy lifting to the lower legs.
Finally, ChiRunning teaches runners the mid-foot strike, landing with their feet directly underneath them or even slightly behind them. This is in contrast to most runners who are heel strikers, which kills momentum with each step and is particularly hard on knees and shins. According to a 2007 survey of more than 25,000 ChiRunners, 61 percent said they were formerly heel strikers and 91 percent reported that their ease of running has improved since adapting to this style [source: Dreyer].