Study suggests running style may be linked to personality type

Man running in The North Face Summit Superior FutureLight trail running jacket
(Image credit: Craig Taylor)

We don’t all run the same. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that. Some people bounce, with huge amounts of air between each pace. Some people barrel along. Some people scurry. Some people look robotic. But that’s all down to our individual physical make-up right? Maybe with a little bit of how and where we learnt to run mixed in?

That, however, may not be the whole story. According to a new study even our personality type could have an effect on the way we run.

No, this isn’t somebody claiming that you can predict what kind of runner you are according to your star sign, it’s a bit more scientific than that.

This new research was undertaken by human biomechanics specialists at Volodalen SportLab in France, published their findings in peer-review scientific journal Plos One this week. 

The research team used 80 adult volunteers, 67 men an 13 women, all identifying as Caucasian (presumably for the purposes of judging like against like) who each completed three 50m running tests. The research team evaluated biomechanical factors such as ground contact time, flight time, step frequency, leg stiffness and more. 

Their personalities were also assessed using the well-known but somewhat controversial Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which grouped participants into one of four categories: thinking-feeling, sensing-intuition, judging-perceiving and extraversion-introversion. (Many scientists consider the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to be pseudoscience and not actually that much more reliable than horoscopes.)

Training of a mountain marathon runner on the country road – pacing tips for trail running

Does he look more 'sensing' or 'intuition' to you? (Image credit: michelangeloop / Getty Images)

By comparing the running styles using recorded video with the categorization assigned by the MBTI test, the researchers found some patterns.

Runners who fell into the 'sensing and intuition' category were strongly linked to particular running styles. Those leaning on the “sensing” side displayed a more 'grounded' running style, noted by prolonged ground contact time and shorter flight time, among other factors. However, runners who fell more the “intuition” zone were found to have a more 'dynamic and elastic' running style, with shorter ground contact time and higher leg stiffness than their counterparts.

The study explains, “These results suggest that runners with sensing and intuition personality traits differ in their ability to use their lower limb structures as springs. Intuition runners appeared to rely more in the stretch-shortening cycle to energetically optimize their running style, while sensing runners seemed to optimize running economy by promoting more forward progression than vertical oscillations.”

It all seems a little vague, but apparently there’s enough here to warrant further research. Maybe they’ll eventually find the personality type who swing their arms like they’re trying to get the front row at a music gig.