Preventing Running Injuries: To Strike or Not to Strike?

Nov 26, 2016

Running injuries have been a topic of interest to scientists in many disciplines, from biomechanics to evolutionary biology, as well as, of course, to runners. More than half of all runners in general, sustain injuries every year.

However, no one knows exactly the reason why runners get hurt. Although several theories have been advanced, including the possibility that hard asphalt roads, lousy diets, very long miles, very short miles or running shoes cause or contribute to the problem.

Foot Strike and Running Injuries

There is a controversy among runners about foot strike. How should a runner hit the ground? With the heel, midfoot, or the toe? This question is overwhelming to some runners.

Certainly there is a significant difference between heel striking, midfoot striking, and forefoot striking. Various studies have pointed out the advantage and disadvantages of each style, but their impacts on individual runners vary a lot.

A study of competitive cross-country runners on a college team revealed that runners who habitually rear foot strike have significantly higher rates of repetitive stress injury than those who mostly forefoot strike.

There has been much speculation that forefoot and midfoot strike must be the best ways to run since rearfoot striking results in increased impact forces, which is suggested to cause more running injuries. Researchers claimed that midfoot and forefoot striking may protect feet and lower limbs from some of the impact-related injuries.

Evolved to Run

Humans evolved from ape-like ancestors because they needed to run long distances. Running was a necessity for their survival, perhaps to hunt animals. And the ability to run shaped the human anatomy, making us look like what we do today.

Today, we live in an abnormal world where people sit throughout the day. The human body adapts to having physical activity integrated into daily activities. The abnormality results from the dissonance between ‘built to run’ and the post-industrial epidemic of sedentary lifestyle.

Gait Training

Ground or foot impact is not the only factor of running injuries. Knee and hip control can also be a factor. Providing runners with feedback about landing forces can reduce running-related pain.

Gait retraining is the altering of movement patterns through audio and visual feedback. It is generally believed that mechanical overload can play a large part in musculoskeletal injury. Therefore gait retraining can be used to prevent reinjury through the redistribution of forces acting on the body. In order for it to be effective, it is important which parts of the body are being overloaded.

A study suggests that lower extremity impact loading can be reduced with a gait retraining program that uses real-time visual feedback. Gait training rehabilitates running injuries and prevent their recurrence through systematic correction of a runner’s stride mechanics.

There is no really superior approach to running. But it is clear that 30-60 minute of forefoot and/or heel striking is better than no strike at all. After all, we are made to move!

If you need help with running or need further advice on about how to prevent running injury, call Happy Physio at 9444 8729 today!