The London Marathon is just around the corner. For thousands of people, it’s peak time to slip on their trainers and hit the road.
We are all aware of the benefits of running. We can increase cardiovascular fitness and enhance feelings of wellness and relaxation.
However, training errors can also predispose a runner to injuries such as IT Band syndrome also known as Runner’s Knee, Shin Splints, Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendinopathy, and ankle sprains. To name just a few!
Common running injuries occur due to poor preparation, covering excessive mileage, hill running, hard surfaces and sudden increase in exercise frequency.
Our expert Physiotherapy Abi outlines some key tips on how to avoid common running injuries.
Today, millions of individuals are running to keep fit but more than 50% will sustain an injury as a result.
Some of these can be small sprains and strains, whilst others can be severe. What’s more, minor injuries which are left untreated can become chronic and present long-term stress and discomfort.
As a therapist, it’s important to not only identify and diagnose injuries but also to educate a client about how to best prevent these types of conditions.
Whilst the knee is the most common site of injury in runners, it is closely followed by the Achilles, shins, hip, groin, foot/ankle then back.
When we run the muscles repeatedly lengthen and shorten. When tight they can cause pain and limit joint mobility over time.
An insufficient stretching programme without a warmup and cooldown has a negative effect. It places undue strain on joints and soft tissues and the body cannot adapt. Injury then ensues.
Foam Rolling is another great way to reduce muscle soreness and improve range of motion, promote blood flow and flexibility in tight thighs and calves.
The appropriate running surface is an important aspect to consider. The ideal running surface is a soft, level dirt path.
Running on uneven surfaces or hard ground such as concrete increases the shock transmitted through the feet and lower extremities.
Grass and sand can provide good cushioning for the feet, on the other hand, they can pose a risk as they are often uneven.
In addition to this, running on hills or a banked surface can cause the foot to flatten (overpronate) and increase the stress on the Achilles especially.
Running posture is also an important element in the prevention of injury. Runners should maintain an upright position, where the torso remains perpendicular to the running surface.
The upper body and arms should be relaxed with the elbows bent to approximately 90 degrees and the hands lose. Attempt to run with shorter steps; your strides shouldn’t be heavy.
Footwear that is worn down or inappropriate to the individual’s foot shape can consequent in ailments of the lower limb and back.
Unsuitable trainers do not provide adequate cushioning and stability that our feet in this day and age rely on, however, this is contrary to the concept of barefoot exercise.
Those that support barefoot running suggest that it can improve foot biomechanics and reduce injury risk, although scientific evidence in this area is lacking.
Due to years and years of wearing supportive footwear, the small intrinsic muscles in our feet have become weak and “lazy”. I, therefore, believe that strengthening these small muscles of the foot and leg is paramount to encourage optimal foot alignment and prepare us better to run barefoot.
When it comes down to it, a good shoe can help to provide rigidity and prevent over-pronation (flat foot) or supination (high arch) which can put us at risk of injury.
Another common cause of running injury like Shin Splints in due to attempting to suddenly run too much too soon.
Prepare a proper training plan which slowly helps you to build the miles but also includes strength training for the core and glutes, like yoga, cross-training and swimming.
How do you feel when your feet hit the ground? Whilst it’s important to challenge and we push ourselves to reach new goals, it’s equally vital to know when to rest.
A certain level of discomfort is to be expected with long-distance running but it’s important to address sharp and chronic pain.
Consider integrating a therapist into your running regime to get ahead of any potentially serious and long-term injuries.
For more guidance on overcoming common running injuries, or to enhance performance check out our 360 Degree Running Analysis at Nordic Balance St James’s.
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