It’s one of the most popular and accessible sports – running. The reason running is so popular and accessible is because you require very little equipment. Shorts, t-shirt and a comfy pair of running shoes will do. Finding a pair of shoes that are comfortable is the most important advice here. There’s no point spending a small fortune on the latest shoes if they are going to cause you aches and pains as soon as you start pounding the pavements.
Many running shops now offer gait analysis when running, the issue is that some (but not all) staff are not properly trained in this skill. It may require the keen eye of a podiatrist or physiotherapist to ensure a proper gait-analysis. Furthermore, the gait-analysis offered can sometimes try and correct an issue that was never there. For example, you may have flattened arches or your ankles over pronate (roll inwards), but this has never caused any injury or pain whilst running. By trying to ‘correct’ this issue you may be negatively altering your biomechanics, some of us are just built differently! Therefore, when buying trainers, go for comfort. If, however, you have been getting pain through running then it’s possible that your gait and running shoes may need adjusted. Sometimes, inserting a comfortable insole is enough to fix the issue, if your pain persists however, pop in to the Buckingham Clinic for a full analysis from one of our physios.
What about technique? There are many schools of thought to which technique is best to use. One that is often recommended is running at a pace of 180 beats per minute (BPM) – that’s 3 steps per second. Whilst it may feel unnatural at first, it encourages you to take shorter steps and not over-extend your legs. When you over extend you no longer absorb the ground reaction forces at you mid to forefoot, but absorb these at your heel – known as heel strike. This is not recommended as it transmits the forces to your knee. As mentioned, everyone is built differently, so try out what is best for you.
What other advice should I follow? Like all sport and exercise, it is important to warm-up and cool-down. Warm-up is essential as it prepares the body and vital organs for exercise and helps prevent injury. Cool-down is just as important as it helps gradually lower the heart rate and prevents any sudden drops in blood pressure. You should therefore, start off jogging at a light pace and gradually increasing this over a period of 10 minutes. Before you finish your run you should again return to jogging a lighter pace and gradually returning to a walk over 10 minutes. Follow this up with gentle stretching of the major muscle groups of the legs. Some people find their shoulders and back become a bit stiff and sore so give them a stretch off too. It may also be worthwhile investing in a foam roller and help massage out those post-run aches and pains.
What are some of the common running injuries?
Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) – Tight calf muscles pull on the shin and cause pain.
ITB syndrome (Runners’s knee) – Where the iliotibial band rubs off its attachment point at the knee and can become inflamed and painful.
Patella femoral pain syndrome/chondromalacia patella – misalignment of the kneecap which can cause it to rub off the femur – causing pain.
Patellar tendonitis (Jumper’s knee) – Inflammation of the patellar tendon, usually felt on impact, e.g jumping and landing.
Ankle sprain – Usually caused by ‘going over’ on your ankle and straining the ligament and soft tissues on the outside of your ankle.
Achilles tendinopathy – Strain and overuse of the Achilles tendon, causing pain and inflammation when you run.
Piriformis Syndrome – Felt in the buttock, this muscle when aggravated can compress the sciatic nerve and can cause symptoms associated with sciatica such as pain, weakness, shooting or burning sensations and tingling that radiates down the back of the leg.
Plantar fasciitis – The plantar fascia is a fibrous band of tissue attached between your heel and toes. It can be caused via impact (compression) or by being overstretched (traction). Pain tends to occur at the heel and at the arch of the foot.
If you receive a running injury, you should always follow the PRICE protocol for the first few days: Protection – i.e. taping, brace. Relative rest – this means avoiding activities that aggravate the injury, but keep it moving to avoid stiffness and loss of strength. Ice – ice the injury for 20 minutes, every two hours, using a towel between the skin to prevent ice burn. Compression – a compression bandage can help reduce and move swelling to the lymph nodes. Elevate when possible – ideally you should have the injured area above heart height or if it’s lower leg, have your knee higher than your hip.
At the Buckingham Clinic, our physiotherapists are specialists in treating sports injuries and restoring you to normal movement and function. So don’t hold off and let that injury worsen, give us a call and we’ll get you back to pounding the pavements in no time.