ChiRunning is an approach to running that started to gain some popularity around 2004, but by 2009 interest in started to drop off and continues to do so, mainly as for most runners it did not live up to what it was promoted as. It was originally developed and promoted by Danny Dreyer in the late 90’s with a book on ChiRunning coming out in 2004. It is akin to the principles of tai chi and when running focuses on alignment, relaxation and a particular technique. The emphasis is on posture, core strength, relaxed legs, and the concept of mindfulness.
What the promotors call a good running technique is central to the ChiRunning concept. They use the concept of run tall with an erect posture with the head, shoulders, hips, and feet all lined up in a straight line. Leaning forward from the ankle with that erect posture is also considered central to the running technique. This falling forward is claimed to reduce the effort need to run and is supposed to be more economical. They put a particular emphasis on striking the ground with the midfoot rather than the heel – this led to New Balance to develop a running shoe specifically designed for a midfoot strike. They also try to keep the core engaged and keep the pelvis level with a lot of emphasis on relaxation when running. The ChiRunning organization certifies instructors worldwide who teach the runners the ChiRunning technique. The instructors must meet a wide variety of criteria set by the organization and they need to renew their certification each year.
A lot of claims get made by those who promote ChiRunning about the benefits in terms of better running economy and less running injury. Most of these were just supported by anecdotes and testimonials. None of the claims were ever supported by any published evidence and subsequent evidence has not supported them either. Most runners lost interest in different running techniques such as ChiRunning as most of the claimed benefits for them did not eventuate to most to the runners that tried it. Adherents to ChiRunning were almost cult like in their behaviours in the way that they promoted, defended and marketed it, which also put a lot of runners off wanting to give it a go.