Running Injuries Got You Down? These 4 Tips Can Help
For anyone who likes to run, suffering a running injury can be devastating. From runner’s knee, to bursitis, to plantar fasciitis, to tendonitis, running injuries have the potential to sideline you for weeks or even months. Although they come in a variety of forms and affect different areas of the body, all running injuries have one thing in common, they all suck.
And with up to 80% of runners getting injured each year, chances are pretty good that you’ll experience one as well. Don’t fret, however. Today, I’m going to share with you four tips that can keep you running strong, even if you happen to get bit by the injury bug.
Are you ready to find out what those tips are? Great! Put on your running shoes and let’s get to it.
Why I Wrote This Post
Look, I’ve been there. You sign-up for a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, whatever it is, and a few weeks out you start to notice some aches and pains you know aren’t good.
You’re afraid if you keep running the pain may get worse and you’ll be forced to pull out of your race. But you’re also afraid that if you stop running then you’ll be undertrained and won’t be ready. So, what do you do? This, my friends, is the purpose of this post.
A lot of the running injuries I’ve treated, and experienced personally, were from not making the necessary adjustment soon enough to keep the problem small. Minor aches and pains, at least initially, are your body’s way of trying to tell you something is wrong. When you listen to these warning signs, and make the necessary adjustments (including using the tips shared below), you can often avoid a more serious injury from ever occurring.
Of course, as with anything, there are exceptions to the rule.
Who These Tips Are For…And Not For
I feel it could go without saying, but with some running related injuries, it’s better if you just don’t run. Sometimes, your body just needs to heal. In these instances, it’s best to get the rest you need to avoid making whatever problem you are experiencing worse.
Stress fractures are a great example of this. You should never run on a stress fracture, period. The tips below would not apply to you. (Although applying these tips after the stress fractures has healed would be wise.)
Instead, these tips are for those relatively minor injuries/aches and pains that are almost certain to pop-up from time to time when you’re a runner. For example, if you’re starting to notice, or have been noticing, some knee pain when you run, then these tips are for you. If you’re starting to notice, or have been noticing some forefoot pain (pain at the front of the foot) when running, then these tips are for you. Or, if you’re starting to notice, or have been noticing, some plantar fasciitis symptoms while running, then these tips are for you. Are you getting the picture?
These tips should not be used if you are severely injured (i.e. in severe pain) as doing so would likely only make the problem worse.
If you think you might fall into the “severely injured” category, I recommend you check out my book, “Injury Guide: How To Treat and Prevent Most Musculoskeletal Injuries…On Your Own!“. It contains over 45 different commonly experienced injuries and shows you exactly what to do to treat them on your own. Check it out here if you’re interested.
The Top 4 Tips To Keep You Going Strong…Even If Injured
Alright, let’s get to the good stuff! I now present to you the top 4 tips to keep you running strong, even if you may be slightly injured. Drum roll please.
Tip #1: Shorten Your Stride Length
If there is only one thing you remember from this post, make it this. Why? Because it basically works for all running injuries and is the absolute easiest to implement.
When you run, the forces traveling through your body from your feet impacting the ground, magnify to between two and seven times your body weight. This means that if you weight 150 pounds, some parts of your body while running can be experiencing forces of up to 1,050 pounds! Crazy, right? That is a lot of force to be dealt with.
What does this have to do with shortening your stride length? Well, researchers have found that shortening your stride length when running by as little as 10% reduces the forces traveling through your body by up to 20%.
This is a big deal, especially for those of you already suffering from running injuries. A 20% reduction would lower forces traveling through the body of a 150 pound runner by over 200 pounds! In some cases, this is all that is needed to keep a slightly injured runner going.
As a side note, I personally used this tip once when I was out running and started noticing some hip pain. Rather than trying to “push through it” and possibly injuring myself more, I shortened my stride length (took smaller steps) and was able to finish my run back to my car pain free. It really does work.
Tip #2: Pick A Strike Pattern (Forefoot, Mid-foot, Or Rear-Foot) That Takes Pressure Off The Injured Area
Because of the increased risk for injury that comes with changing your naturally selected running form too quickly, tip #2 is recommended more for those stubborn, chronic running related injuries that don’t seem to want to go away.
Similar to tip #1, tip #2 also works by lessening impact forces, but in a different way. By altering how your foot contacts the ground (ex. going from landing on your heel to landing more on the front part of your foot) you change the location where forces are being absorbed in the body.
For example, runners who land with their heel first absorb more force in their knees and hips. Alternatively, runners who land more on the front of their feet absorb more force in their arches and calves.
Knowing this, if you’ve been suffering from persistent knee pain, you could benefit from landing on more of the front part of your foot. This would take pressure away from your knees and place it more on your arches and calves.
Conversely, if you’ve been suffering from persistent plantar fasciitis or calf pain, you would benefit from landing more on your heels. Why? Because this would take pressure away from your arches and calves and place it more on your hips and knees. Make sense?
By the way, if you have plantar fasciitis, I wrote an entire post on how to treat this painful condition on your own. Click here to check it out.
A word of caution:
The mere act of consciously changing your natural running form can increase your risk for suffering a running related injury for the simple fact your body is not used to it. To minimize this risk, try to make all changes in your form gradually and, if possible, seek out the advice of an experience running coach.
Tip #3: Improve Ankle Range Of Motion
Tip #3 is for those of you suffering from some kind of forefoot injury (injury in the front part of the foot). This includes injuries such as; sesamoiditis, interdigital neuritis, Morton’s neuroma, metatarsalgia, metetarsal stress fractures, bunions, etc. Even plantar fasciitis would benefit from this tip.
Why? Because improving ankle range of motion helps to take pressure off the front part of your foot when running and/or walking. As with tips #’s 1 and #2, less pressure equals less risk for injury.
There are a few ways this can be done. One way is to keep your calves flexible. Tight calves are notorious for limiting ankle range of motion which greatly increases pressure on the front part of your foot. Because of this, you’ll want to be sure to incorporate regular calf stretches into your routine to keep your calves flexible. Massage tools such as foam rollers and massage sticks can also help with this.
Another way to improve ankle range of motion is with the use of an ankle rocker board. These allow you to roll your ankle in different directions and work great for improving foot and ankle mobility.
Lastly, chiropractic adjustments can also be a very effective method for improving ankle range of motion and, as a bonus, getting your ankles and feet adjusted feels amazing. Just keep in mind though, that not all chiropractors adjust ankles. If this is an option you’d like to try, simply ask if the chiropractor you’d like to see adjust ankles before scheduling your first appointment.
Tip #4: Improve Hip Strength
Tip #4 is recommended for all runners, regardless if you have an injury or not. Your hips play such an important role in how your legs function when running, even the slightest weakness can lead to problems.
Squats, lunges, clams, and side lying leg lifts are all examples of great exercises for the hips that can be done in the comfort of your own home. I recommend, at the very least, to perform three to four hip strengthening exercises per week. This will help keep your hips strong and can help you prevent, and even overcome, many running related injuries.
If you need more ideas on how to strengthen your hips, you can check out my book, Injury Guide: How To Treat and Prevent Most Musculoskeletal Injuries…On Your Own!“. It’s filled with over 120 different exercises and stretches for the entire body, including your hips.
Putting It All Together
When used correctly, these 4 tips can help prevent minor aches and pains from turning into full blown injuries. The trick is to implement them early before real problems arise.
What do you do to keep yourself running injury free? Please help others by sharing your tips below.
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