Todd Brown is a Podiatrist and consults at Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre in Geelong.
In this article, Todd provides a useful guide to preventing foot injuries in runners.
Injuries are a part of sport and almost every one suffers an injury at one time or another, the good news is most injuries can be predicted and in most cases prevented. So how can you prevent getting injured?
The most common cause of running injuries is too much, too fast, too soon. This can result in overuse injuries and can affect beginners and experienced runners alike.
TRAIN SMARTER - 9 Tips to Minimize Injury Risk
Warm Up and Cool Down
- Before and after exercise. This should involve 10 or so minutes of exercises using the same muscles as those you plan to use during your workout. Appropriate stretching is valuable.
- Lack of stretching or incorrect stretching can lead to running injuries, stretching forms an important part of any running program and should become habitual as part of your warm up and cool down activities.
Follow the stretching advice as provided by your sports medicine practitioner
- Running creates strain and stress on certain muscles & after you stop running those muscles begin to tighten. The best way to avoid tightness/stiffness & eventual soreness in those muscles is to stretch after running.
- Build your training load slowly over time the 10% rule is a good guide, increase your weekly kilometres by 10% per week.
- This includes increasing the length of your long runs by 10% per week. For example if your longest run has been 10km don’t jump straight to 15km for your long run, try 11km, then 12km then 13km etc.
- A common error is missing training sessions and adding extra kilometers into subsequent workouts in order to “catch up.”
- Resuming your training program after missing several workouts increases your risk of developing a running injury.
- It is important you don’t repeat two hard workouts back to back, hard workouts such as long runs, hill repeats, racing and speed work will stress your body.
- Taking a one day break (rest day, cross training, non w/bearing exercise, technique sessions) between hard workouts allows your body to recover and limits your risk of suffering a running injury.
Choose running surfaces carefully
- Running on softer surfaces (grass, packed dirt, athletics track) in training will minimise your injury risk, it is important that you run on asphalt occasionally as this is the surface most races are run on.
- Some running tracks/trails will have a camber to assist run off, this slant can cause one foot to pronate (roll inward) and the other to supinate (roll outward) this can increase risk of suffering foot injury. Flatter surfaces are preferable for injury prevention.
Appropriate Footwear & Usage
- Running in tennis shoes, excessively worn shoes, or the wrong shoe type (motion control, stability, neutral) will increase the likelihood of developing foot injuries. Like tyres, shoes will wear out at a certain mileage replacing them regularly (approx. every 750-1000km).
- Excessively worn shoes are a quick way to a foot injury the shoe breaks down and will throw off your running stride.
- A good way to prolong the life of your shoes is to have a 2nd pair of shoes to be used on alternate days allowing the cushioning material in the shoe to recover between wears. Your podiatrist can advise you as to whether you are running in a shoe that is suitable for your foot type.
Listen to Your Body
- Paying attention to warning signs from your body, if you think you might be injured immediately begin preventative measure to limit damage to a minimum and promote recovery.
- Depending on the injury the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method aids recovery, and in some cases taking a day or two off running to allow the injury to heal.
- Anti-inflammatory medication may be beneficial for certain injuries but should be discussed with your sports doctor before being taken.
- If you don’t listen to your body secondary injuries can occur by running through the pain and favouring the injured side and changing your natural running style.
- Cross training is a great way to avoid running injuries, it develops parts of your body that running neglects and will increase aerobic capacity. It is a good way to recover between hard running sessions as can be less stressful on muscles and joints.
- Using recovery techniques such as massage, hot/cold water contrast therapy, or gentle walking can all aid the recovery process.
For additional help and advice about preventing running injuries, make an appointment to see Todd Brown or contact the Podiatry department at Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre.