As I work with both competitive and recreational runners in my clinic one of the common questions that comes up is “what do I need to do to decrease my chance of getting injured?”
Depending on who you ask, the answer to this can be complicated. There are many things that are recommended to decrease a runner’s chance of injury. These can include the type of footwear, use of orthotics, foot pronation, strengthening exercises, foot strike pattern, knee alignment, pelvic alignment, core strength to just name a few. The problem with all of these is that the evidence is conflicting and things that we think matter, may actually not.
For instance, when we look at the type of shoe you should wear, the common thought is that it should match your foot type. For instance, and person thought to have excessive pronation (flat foot) would be placed in a supportive shoe and someone with a high arch, would be placed in a cushion shoe. It makes sense from a biomechanical perspective but when studied, it does not matter in injury risk reduction. In a study published, it was found that just picking a shoe that is comfortable for you may reduce your injury risk more than matching the shoe to your foot.
There are other examples of the research not supporting commonly held beliefs about what is important in reducing injury risk for runners, but an in depth review of each of these is beyond the scope of this article. What
I would like to do today is leave you with 2 very simple recommendations that you can use to reduce your risk of sustaining an injury while running, s that you can keep training the way you want and enjoy.
Number one, there are many studies that support the notion that training error is the number one cause of injuries in runners. So, what does “training error” mean. Basically, increasing your mileage and/or intensity too quickly increases your risk.
As I have stated in previous Blogs, our bodies are amazing in their ability to adapt to the stressor and loads that we put it through. It is a living and adaptive organism, and given the right amount of stress and rest, it will adapt and eventually come back stronger. We have all experienced the increase in fitness that comes through our training which is our body adapting to the loads we have placed through it. The problem arises when we push it beyond what it has adapted to. We may be able to get away with this on a one time basis, but if we repetitively push past the capability of our body, we may experience pain and/or injury. So the first main recommendation is to make sure that you are gradually increasing your mileage and/or intensity, and rest frequently, so that your body has time to adapt and become stronger.
The second simple recommendation for decreasing risk of injury is one that can be applied anywhere (on treadmill or outside) and is very low tech. This recommendation is to run quieter. During each step in the running cycle, the body has to absorb the force coming back up through the body at foot strike. This is called the ground reaction force (GRF).
In a 2017 research paper by Tate and Milner, the researchers found that simple verbal instruction to run quieter resulted in significant changes in GRF as well as changes in running mechanics to decrease the forces that the runner has to withstand. No equipment is needed and it is easy to focus on-just listen to what you sound like when your foot hits the ground, and try to make this as quiet as possible. By decreasing the GRF at impact, less stress is placed through the runner’s knee, hip, and low back region which can decrease the risk of pain or injury as you increase your mileage.
Whether you are a recreational or competitive runner, these simple strategies, which are supported by research, can keep you running pain and injury free. Monitor your mileage and intensity so that you are not making large increases in either of these and focus on running quieter.
If you have questions or struggling to get past a lingering problem, feel free to reach out to me and I will help you out.
Thanks for reading,
Posted onJune 5, 2018