by Dipti Joshi
Several runners were asked to provide the very first answer that came to mind after reading the following question: What is the best way to prevent running injuries? Sixteen people responded, and the first 5 ways on the list below (researched and written before the survey was sent), were mentioned! After about 40 years of research, observation, new technologies, discoveries, and cool gear, we are still getting injured. Nothing has changed. Almost 80% of runners are injured in a year. We are almost certain that asking a few more people would have resulted in an A+ on this pop quiz. At times, we can be
our own best health advisors/doctors and like some of them, we often don’t take our own good advice. Smile. It also might be that there really isn’t one single thing that is absolutely best at preventing injuries in runners, (not even not running because running injuries can be found in non-runners.) In fact, there is very little evidence that any of these things work. Should we wait for the evidence?
If you have read thus far, you have the following three choices: 1. continue reading until the end and click on that link under reason #6. 2. scroll right to the end, click, and forget reading completely. 3. stop here and click on that link some other time, but soon. Basically, no matter what you do, consider viewing the video because a little verbal boxing between experts never hurts. What do you believe? Who is right? Why?
We are complex in mind and body, so not all of these ideas will work for each individual. (Always seek professional opinions for individual care, and don’t be afraid to ask questions).
6 Easy Ways To (Possibly) Prevent Running Injuries Are:
1. Dynamic stretching prior to running. A good warmup should include a combination of walking and running, before actually running. Static
stretch: No, because it can result in relaxation, causing a decrease in strength. Although both of the stretching techniques give temporary results, dynamic stretching is the only type that is recommended prior to runs. It actively works a muscle group while the opposing group rests. This allows greater range of motion to preserve function. Static stretching doesn’t seem to decrease rates of injury prevention after runs, according to limited studies. There is some evidence that it helps hamstring strains, specifically in older adults. There are not enough studies about stretching demonstrating the relationship to long-term injury prevention and reduction of injuries. We are still subject to injury, even if we warm up and stretch. Stretching was the most popular answer in the group. Do we try it for ourselves, or not?
2. Rest. Listen to your body. An injury doesn’t mean you have to fully rest, but walking is a great way to take a break from running and a great activity on it’s own. Explore a lower impact activity, if walking caused the injury. Several people mentioned moderation. This answer somewhat overlaps with a slow increase in mileage, cross-training, listening to your body, and rest. Swimming is a yes for almost every injury including specifics like patellofemoral syndrome, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, stress fractures, and it provides a good aerobic workout. These suggestions are a way to look at the overall perspective and goal of exercise, which is to maintain wellbeing. Not being able to run secondary to injury can cause unhappiness. It’s also ok to do something else if swimming makes you unhappy.
3. Shoes. There is plenty of controversy in the studies, and it is difficult to gauge long term overall impact on the body. Given the limited research, the only conclusions we can make now are: Your sneakers should feel comfortable (very often we are biased about what comfort is in the moment vs. the long term and only keep trying on similar shoes) Have a few different pairs of sneakers with slightly different drops (height difference between the sole of your shoe to the front of your shoe) Avoid wearing the same type of sneaker drop all the time, but also avoid having large differences between the lowest and highest drop shoe (no real guidelines). Again, there is no proof that this is better, but introducing a little change may improve your foot mechanics. Motion control shoes have been shown to decrease injury in a very small sample of runners over a 6-month period. This type of shoe prevents over pronation, but is the pronation worse because the runners are using cushioned shoes in the first place? Minimalist shoes may be helpful because of the increased range of motion that results. Minimalist sneakers come with schedules of how to transition from higher drop shoes. There is no proof that maximalist shoes prevent injury better than minimalist shoes and vice versa. Buy new shoes when you want to or at your own mileage count. One of you said ankle stability, which has to do with core/leg/hip strength, and shoes. One of you said shoes.
4. Increase Distance Slowly. If you are a distance runner, increase the amount of miles you run by only 5-10% each week. A small study showed there was less injury in those that increased their mileage less than 30%. The best result (chance of being injury free) was achieved by increasing mileage less than 10% every week. No surprise, and moderation is a good way to look at this.
5. Cross-train. The best way to gain speed is lower body and hip strengthening exercises (and running more). A good way to actively rest is to add other activities on days off, like core classes, stability ball classes, stretching, hydrotherapy, tai chi, yoga, swimming, biking. Again, these ideas are very general and may not work for your specific issues because every type of activity, including complete rest, offers imperfections. Active rest can relieve soreness (DOMS-delayed onset muscle soreness) faster.
6. Good Form. One way to obtain feedback is to seek it from a physical therapist in the form of audiovisual training on a treadmill. The advantage is that it will help you to consciously change what you are doing (Are you heel striking?,midfoot striking?, etc). Breathing technique is important, but which one is right? Various running methods exist, but will not be reviewed in this post. However, this is an excellent 10 min video (sometimes loads a little slow) that describes some running controversies, foot strike, shoes, etc.
Please feel free to send comments and or questions about any of the contents or posts.