Since we and many FYL clients enjoy running, we thought this would be a great topic to discuss. Whether you are a beginner or have years and races under your belt, chances of experiencing aches and pains from running are quite high. The repetitive hip and knee motions, as well as the high impact on joints are bound to create increased muscle tension and potential restrictions and pain in tissues. Many runners can usually “run through the pain”, but if the cause of the problem is not addressed, these issues can eventually increase in severity and force runners to stop. Luckily there are simple things that runners can do to decrease the chances of injury. Based on experiences with our FYL clients, common causes of running injuries include improper footwear, poor running surfaces, and lack of stretching.
Let’s review footwear first. The structure of your feet essentially determines how the rest of your body aligns. Looking and comparing at how pronounced the arches under your feet are when you stand, walk and sit is a good indicator as to whether or not you have any structural concerns. Pes planus (flat feet) and pes cavus (high arches) are common foot problems that can lead to other conditions such plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, “knocked-knees”, tightness in the calves, restrictions in the IT bands, and low back pain to name just a few. In either case, proper footwear can help bring balance to the feet and essentially the entire body.
So how can you find the right running shoes for you? There are a few choices. If you are lucky enough to not have experienced any problems with your feet in the past, you could visit a store that specializes in running, such as The Running Room or Running Free. They typically perform a quick gait assessment (look at how you walk in bare feet) prior to making any suggestions. Running shoes are usually categorized as “motion control”, “stability”, or “cushion”. Based on their assessment, they will guide you to the right category of running shoes that you would benefit from most. If you chronically experience foot discomforts in your daily activities let alone run, you may want to consider orthotics. Your chiropractor can perform an in depth gait analysis in order to have insoles customly made for your feet. The benefit to having orthotics is that they can be placed in any of your shoes. Another thing to consider when buying running shoes is that they not be too tight. Shoes that are too tight or tied too tightly can easily impede circulation to the feet. Runners should change their running shoes between 1-3 times a year (depending on frequency and distance of their runs) since the cushion wears down fairly quickly. When transitioning from an old pair of shoes to a new pair of shoes, you should alternate between both pairs for a couple of runs so that your feet and body gradually adjust to the new shoes. A sudden change of footwear can also cause problems.
Many runners, especially long-distance runners, tend to run on the road. In addition, they tend to run on the left side of the road to face oncoming traffic. If you picture the road, the middle is quite leveled, but it gradually slopes down towards the sides. By always running on the same side of the road, muscle imbalances gradually increase over time. It’s the same idea as running on a track. Tracks tend to slope downward, and if a runner always runs in the same direction, one leg will eventually get tighter than the other and create muscle imbalances in the body. Runners should try to alternate directions and types of surfaces regularly to avoid these problems. Gravel, grass and dirt trails are much more forgiving on your joints. However, a greater awareness of your surroundings is required in order to avoid tripping or twisting an ankle. Hills can also be challenging on the body. It is important to note that running down a hill is harder on your joints and ligaments than running up a hill. If you already experience knee discomforts, you may want to consider walking down hills.
Last but not least, the subject of stretching. Stretching is an essential part of any workout regime that is often overlooked. Stretching helps to decrease muscle tension, increase range of motion, promote circulation and prevent injuries. Common areas that get tight from running are the calves, quads, hamstrings, gluteals, hip flexors, neck and shoulders. If these areas are not regularly lengthened, contractures and injuries can develop. IT Band contracture, IT Band friction syndrome, compartment syndrome and periostitis (known as “shin splints”), tendonitis, and patella femoral tracking problems are just some examples of common injuries associated with running. Massage therapy is very beneficial in treating these conditions. However, these are preventable with proper cool downs and stretching after each run. To stretch efficiently, make sure to move into the stretch slowly and stop at the point where you feel mild tension. Once there, breathe slowly and hold that position for 10-30 seconds. Once you feel the muscle tension release, move out of the stretch slowly. Stretching should be painless. If you feel pain, you’ve probably gone too far. Ease off until the pain disappears.
We hope this information will be of great use to you. Following the above suggestions should reduce pain during and between runs, prevent injuries, as well as improve the quality of your runs. If you have any questions or would like more information please feel free to contact us.
May you enjoy injury-free running during this beautiful spring season!
From the FYL Health & Wellness Team