Running away from injury
with advice from
Lori Francoeur, PT, MSPT, CSCS,
Jeff Rothstein, MS, CSCS, TSAC-F, CES, USAW and Polar
Running is a common way to stay fit — in theory, all you require is a good pair of running shoes. But running can also lead to a variety of injuries. Our experts talked to us about the most common running injuries and how to avoid them.
According to Jeff Rothstein, the Director of Sports Enhancement for the PT Center for Sports Medicine, a Physiquality clinic in Akron, Ohio, the most common running injuries are to the foot, knee and back. Jeff notes that having the right running shoes is essential for avoiding injury.
Lori Francoeur, a physical therapist at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Center in Arizona, agrees. She explains that runners should wear a “good supportive shoe that will provide adequate support and cushioning for your arch and heel.”
Back and knee injuries are often a result of weak muscles, says Jeff, as many runners focus on running without strength training. He advises that runners strengthen their glutes, hamstrings and core to support the body while running. Otherwise, runners can be prone to imbalanced muscles, which can lead to a poor gait and possibly injury. (If you’re worried about your gait, many physical therapists do gait evaluations to help runners improve their form.)
A running coach and marathoner, Lori cautions runners to take a slow and steady approach to progressing distance. She advises any new runners to not start with more than 1 – 2 miles at a time, not necessarily running the entire time – just plan to be moving the entire time, whether you are walking or running at a slow pace. Keep track of each run’s distance, and don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. There are plenty of ways to measure your distance these days, whether by using an iPhone or Apple watch, or a sports-specific monitor like those from Physiquality partner Polar.
Jeff also points out that most runners don’t stretch enough. “This will lead to progressive shortening of the major muscles involved in running,” he says, which can limit your joint’s range of motion and put you at a greater risk for injury. While stretching can be done before or after your run, Lori notes that stretching should be done when your muscles are already warm, making it better to stretch afterwards. This post-run stretch regimen from Polar lengthens your glutes, hamstrings and calves, and opens your hip flexors, all key muscles for running.
And don’t forget the importance of rest. Rest allows our muscles and joints time to recover from the pounding we endure from running, says Lori. As we’ve previously noted here, It is only after your workout, when you are resting and replenishing your body with protein and other nutrients, when the body heals and gets stronger.
Finally, any runner should listen to his body. While starting a new activity typically comes with muscle soreness and some aches and pains, notes Lori, an intense pain, or a pain persisting for multiple days that does not subside with rest, is one you should have checked out. Physical therapists are a great resource; many outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinics offer free injury evaluations. A PT will be able to listen to your complaints and complete an assessment to determine what the problem is. Then she can create a strengthening and/or stretching program for you to perform to resolve the problem.
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Lori Francoeur, PT, MSPT, CSCS, has been a physical therapist for 15 years at the Ahwatukee location of Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Centers, a Physiquality member with 18 locations throughout Arizona. A certified strength and conditioning specialist, Lori is also an avid runner who has completed numerous half marathons and ran the New York City Marathon in 2011.
Jeff Rothstein, MS, CSCS, TSAC-F, CES, USAW, is an exercise physiologist at the PT Center for Sports Medicine, a Physiquality clinic in Akron, Ohio. As the Director of Sports Enhancement, he develops sport-specific strength and conditioning programs for athletes to prevent injuries and improve athletic performance.
Polar is the innovator in heart rate monitoring, activity trackers and training computers. With 40 years of experience and a proud heritage in physiological and sports medical research, they cater to all levels of fitness by offering a comprehensive product range, including cycling computers, wearable sports devices and activity trackers, training apps and online services. Polar, a Physiquality partner, has earned validation from respected institutions around the world, including The Olympic Medical Institute.
For further information, look through our selection of articles on running, in addition to the below links:
Cooper, Bob. The 25 golden rules of running. Runners’ World, June 27, 2016.