Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise, largely because it can be done almost anywhere at any time and it doesn’t require much in the way of equipment (other than a pair of running shoes). While there is a common belief that running always leads to osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, the current research suggests that running may reduce the risk for knee OA and it can also improve pain and disability in patients who have developed the condition. Here are four tips for reducing the risk of experiencing a running-related injury so that you can reap all the benefits this activity has to offer…
Tip #1: Practice good form. Avoid running like you’re on a tight rope or balance beam (crossover gait). Practice walking, and then slowly run while keeping your feet apart (about the width of your pelvis). A crossover gait is bad because it increases foot/ankle pronation (rolling in), knee valgus stress (knock-knee affect), hip internal rotation (turns in), hip adduction stress (pulls on the outer thigh and impinges the hip), and low back extension (too much arching)—ALL of which can lead to injury in multiple body regions, including the knees!
Tip #2: Wear the “right” shoes for your foot. Dip your foot in water and look at your footprint on the floor. If your foot looks wide, you have a flat, pronated foot and a “motion control” shoe (designed for the low or no arched foot) is recommended. Avoid stiff soled shoes as they reduce the ability to feel the ground, leading to new or further injuries. If your footprint looks skinny, a “cushioned” shoe designed for the high arched foot is ideal as it absorbs the shock caused by the lack of pronation. If your footprint is between skinny and wide, a “stability” or “neutral” shoe designed for the normal arched foot is ideal. If you’re not sure, consult with a representative at your local running store. Many businesses that cater to runners have equipment on site to help identify the best shoe for you. Also, remember to replace your shoes every 250 miles REGARDLESS of your foot and shoe type!
Tip #3: Avoid progressing too fast. The tendency is to want to get into shape NOW! This can lead to overtraining and places too much stress on the body, which can result in injury. Practice the 10% rule. If you ran ten miles in total last week and you want to increase your total distance, try adding 10% to each run so you achieve a total of eleven miles this week.
Tip #4: Strengthen your legs and hips with these exercises: 1) Posterior lunge - Stand and reach back with your left leg while squatting down as if to touch your left knee to the floor while bending your right knee (arms out front for balance). Go as far down as you COMFORTABLY can, keeping the right knee behind your toes. Repeat on the other side. Go slow, start with a half or quarter lunge to avoid injury! 2) Advanced Clam - Lie on your side, raise the upper leg and rotate the hip in and out slowly. 3) Side Plank Leg Raise - Lie on your side, legs straight (advanced) or bent (easier), and raise the pelvis off the floor (elbow under the shoulder), then raise the upper leg toward the ceiling.
If you feel as though running is causing pain or worsening existing pain, then consult with your doctor of chiropractic. He or she can examine your body and mechanics and provide conservative treatment to help make sure your next run is as pain free as possible.