Do long legs mean you run faster?

I realised today that I seem to go through quite a lot of running partners…..not really sure why…(please be kind). Now let me think: one is pregnant (that’s an OK excuse I guess 😉 ) and another two have stopped running altogether for one reason or another. I am almost sure that it is not really down to me…..

My latest training partner is someone who I have great admiration for. She has run 2 marathons and has improved her running no end, something that I would love to do. I hope to pick up some of her skills! There are some friends though that have been saying (because I am a fair bit taller than her)

You should be a lot faster!

To be honest this hurts a bit. Yes I have got long legs but does that automatically mean that I will be faster than someone with shorter legs or find it any easier?

My Initial thoughts

I suppose that I can see the logic behind it.  My strides should be longer and therefore I have to take less strides to cover the same distance. On the other hand – I am bigger therefore heavier. Also does taking fewer strides use less energy? (Sometimes, when tired I consciously reduce my stride length.)

I have done a bit of research, I typed:

How does the length of your legs affect how fast you can run?

The results:

A study that I found quoted on The Science Of Running seems to show that there is no correlation between the length of leg and the length of stride:

What is also interesting is that Mathathi who is 1.67m tall and Sihine who is 1.71m tall both had considerably smaller stride lengths than Bekele who is only 1.60m tall.

That well-known font of all knowledge: Wiki has the following to say in answer to the question:

Does a longer leg mean a longer stride and a faster speed?

It would make for a longer stride but that doesn’t necessarily translate into speed. A humans leg is roughly the same length from hip to knee and knee to ankle meaning that no matter how long the leg this ratio will be constant. To run faster our knees would need to be higher on our legs allowing us to have a larger stride for a smaller movement like a horse. Or our ankles would need to be redesigned to be more like an ostrich’s or a cat’s this would allow for more “spring” as we ran.

I am happy with those answers for now. I am going to return to the question of stride length and speed later but for now I know that having longer legs does not necessarily make you a faster runner. I can now train with my new partner happily. 🙂



19 thoughts on “Do long legs mean you run faster?

  1. Beate

    Very interesting post. I only run for food and only if there is not much of my favorite kind.
    I used to run to catch a bus, but those have been YEARS pass and a car pretty much ended that running career.

  2. allnightknits

    I really like this. When I was running I got all sorts of crap for not being faster (I am 5’6″ and all leg). I realized more than anything that I took shorter strides when I ran because it helped with 1) pressure on my knees and 2) kept from overextending my hips.

    If anyone give you grief just tell them that running form is far more important to your body than time.

      1. allnightknits

        Shorter strides in long distance are better for your joints – less long term extension in you hips and knees. It makes since, watch long distance vs. sprinters at a professional level.

  3. Gertie

    Although I’m not a runner, I would say it doesn’t really matter how long your legs are. Take a look at the athletes in the various 100m/400m etc races. They’re all of different heights, yet the tallest person doesn’t always win xx

  4. lottieknits

    Fascinating post – I’ve always been useless at running and very slow, but now I know I can’t blame my short sturdy Shetland pony-like scouse legs. *sigh* however, I’d look pretty stupid with ostrich legs, so ever cloud has a silver lining! 😀

  5. sourdoughkaty

    Ayerveda holds that there are 3 basic body types. They are identified by many markers, one of which is running style. The three styles are described as like a deer, like a tiger, or like a bear. Speed, power, endurance. Being tall makes you more likely to be the third (like me!). I say, embrace the type! 😉

  6. Louise @ Elsie May and Bertha

    I never have thought about having shorter legs going slower than longer ones. But then, running is definitely not my thing. The last time I did some real running (rather than running for a but etc) was at school, which was quite a long time ago!
    Happy running and making.

  7. Suzie

    Fab post … I’m 5′ 11” with long gangly legs and I’ve been told more than once that it must be easier for me to run a marathon because I ‘need to take less steps!’. It’s still the same distance whether you are 4ft 11 of 5ft 11!!!


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