Running injuries are multifactorial and consist of personal, lifestyle, biomechanical and/or training factors. How do you prevent a running injury? First know your risk factors! Check out In Motion PT’s last blog post to review the major risk factors for running injuries.
Today, we will consider training load, mileage, running cadence, foot strike, footwear, and orthotic use. Understanding all of these factors can help to prevent running injuries to ensure many happy, pain-free miles in the future!
How can I adjust my training factors to prevent injury?
The value of a well-thought out training program is essential to reduce injury risk. Around 60% of all running injuries are related to doing “too much, too soon.” Tissues should be gradually exposed to load with at least 24-48 hours of rest between workouts. Shoe selection is also an important factor to be aware of. Below are some helpful training tips to prevent running injury.
1. Find your optimal training load
This is not the same number for everyone. One study showed that increased hours of running per week was protective against running injuries. This is consistent with the fact that a slower training pace helps decrease risk of lower body injury. Additionally, running 1-3 times and less than 10 miles per week appears to be protective against running injury .
There is also evidence to suggest that running more than 6 times per week is a risk factor for injury. Conversely, running only once per week can actually increase your risk for injury, likely because you’re not letting your body adapt to the higher forces of running .
Overall there doesn’t seem to be an optimal training dosage. In order to determine what the appropriate amount of training is for you, you may need to experiment with different running paces and distances.
2. Slowly progress your training load
To minimize risk of injury when first starting or getting back into running, do not increase your mileage more than 10% each week. This allows your tissues to adapt to the new loads you are placing on them . Progressing too fast will cause overuse injuries as your tissues are not ready for the demands you are placing on them.
3. Increase your running cadence/adjust your foot strike
Cadence is defined as the total number of steps you take per minute. Longer strides, or steps, will decrease your cadence. There is some research to suggest that a higher cadence lowers your risk of running-related injuries.
Similarly, there is some debate about the optimal place for your foot to strike the ground during running and how this changes your injury risk. While there is some evidence that landing in a forefoot strike pattern is ideal, this takes adequate preparation and training. If you transition too fast, it could result in more calf and foot injuries and so should only be attempted with proper training and guidance .
When considering footwear and orthoses, most injuries are seen in runners who make a drastic change. This change could be adopting minimalist shoes or adding an orthosis when there is no history of injury . Also, selecting a shoe type that is not conducive with the structure or needs of your foot can be problematic, though research has not a found statistical significance (i.e. selecting a stability shoe when unnecessary).
How do I pick running shoes?
Running shoes are really the only equipment you need to run, which also means they are your most important piece of equipment. Because of this, there are many considerations when picking out running shoes.
Depending on your foot type and ability to absorb load, some shoes may be better suited to you than others. From least to more supportive, there are 4 different shoe classifications: minimalist, neutral, stability, and motion control shoes. There is no research to suggest that wearing a shoe specific to your “foot-type” will reduce injury risk.
My motto is “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” If you’ve been running in the same type of shoes for years and never had any issues, don’t try another type. If you have been dealing with a lot of injuries, it might be time to start shoe shopping [4, 5]. Make sure you can run with a pair of shoes to test their fit before you buy them, if possible.
There is some research to suggest that wearing minimalist shoes actually decreases injury , however, if not transitioned correctly can increase injury risk.
How long do I wear my running shoes?
While the best type of shoe for you isn’t always clear, you can control how long you wear your running shoes to prevent running injury. Regularly replacing running shoes every 300-500 miles is imperative due the natural breakdown that occurs to the shoe over time .
Should you wear orthotics?
Orthotics are inserts or insoles you put in your shoes to prevent or assist with abnormal motion or mechanics while walking or running. Unfortunately, the research related to using orthotics and preventing injury is inconclusive .
Because of this, if I feel as though someone will benefit from an orthotic or an arch support, I have them start with an over-the-counter model first instead of a custom-made one because it is more cost-effective.
Again, pain with running is NOT normal. Pain should be used as your guide, especially when it comes to determining how much mileage is too much and how much rest you need in between workouts. In order to make sure you can run for a lot of miles with as little pain possible, it is imperative to prevent running injury before it’s a problem.
As always, check out In Motion PT’s return to running page for more info. Make sure to give us a call to schedule your running analysis if you’re having difficulty determining how to progress your training, understand your cadence and foot strike patterns, pick out the right pair of shoes, and determine whether orthotics are a good option for you.
Written by Lauren Schnidman