Running injuries can happen at any skill level, whether you are just starting out or a seasoned marathoner. There are several ways to prevent injuries which will keep you running. In my experience there are a few areas to focus on such as proper footwear, pre and post stretching, and cross training.
One way to prevent an injury is to have proper footwear. To get the right shoe for you and your running style it is best to leave it up to professionals. There are several running stores in the area that will custom measure your feet and fit you into the proper shoe that suits your needs. Whether you have a high arch or are extremely flat footed, there are different shoes for each foot type. By starting out with the proper equipment, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures and neuromas are reduced significantly. Minimalist shoes (shoes that have minimal support or “barefoot” shoes) are becoming popular in the running community and would be most suited for someone that has a strong arch that can support impact with each stride. This would not be a good option for a runner that has flat feet or pronates when running/walking, they would need something with more support. Finally, don’t overuse your running shoes. After 300 to 500 miles of running they do not have the same qualities to help support your feet and you should be getting new shoes at that point. This is about every 3-6 months if you run 20 to 50 miles per week, assuming you are using the shoes only for running.
Another area of focus should be in your pre and post stretching routine. Before your run, the best way to warm up is dynamic stretching which is moving while stretching instead of holding a position. One example of a dynamic stretch would be holding on to something to maintain balance and slowly start swinging your leg back and forth with your leg straight. As you start to loosen up, you will be able to increase the intensity of the movement. This should be performed for 30 repetitions. There are plenty of other dynamic stretches that can help warm you up prior to your run. Following your run, static stretching should be performed. Static stretching is holding a position for a period of time. Typically for runners the most important areas to stretch are calves, hamstrings, quads and lateral hips. In our clinic, we have incorporated many of these techniques and have customized stretching programs for different athletes depending on their restrictions.
Finally the last area to help avoid injury is cross training. Constant running without other forms of training can lead to significant weaknesses in other areas of the body that translate to injuries. Some signs and symptoms that runners may experience that are primarily due to a lack of cross training are low back pain, lateral hip pain and knee pain just to name a few. Lower abdominal and gluteal strengthening can be key in keeping a stabile pelvis and decrease chance for developing an abnormal running pattern with muscle imbalances in your body. In our clinic, we see these problems all too often in runners. By adding in pelvic tilt exercises along with hip strengthening exercises such as clams and hip squeezes can help tremendously. Another exercise that can be simple and also help build lateral hip muscles can be walking sideways, side shuffling on a treadmill, or on pavement. Exercises like these would be beneficial to add into a daily program.
These simple but useful tips will help keep you on the road running and help avoid injuries or running through pain.
Michael Demetriades DPT received his doctorate degree from Quinnipiac University. He has experience in working with all ages and injuries. Michael is a previous varsity hockey and baseball player who is well versed in the modern athlete. He can be contacted in Branford at (203) 433-4683.