Running Injuries: Your Shoes or You?
Running is fast becoming the most popular sport in the UK. And with 2 million runners in the UK and growing, preventing injury and understanding how lifestyle factors can affect your running performance is key to keeping you running week in week out.
Being so simple, running is often picked up by those who are just getting into sport, or those with busy schedules looking to get a half hour run in at lunch. Experienced athletes also see long runs as a way to complement their training regime and improve their overall performance.
Why then does running result in so many sporting injuries? Is it all about your running style? Or maybe the shoes and equipment you’re using? Nick Gallogly, Consultant Orthotist at Circle Reading Hospital, provides some insight into the potential causes of running injuries, and what you can do to reduce their frequency and appearance.
Running can be argued as being a very simple sport, and good performance is defined by Nick as, “How someone can get from A to B with the least amount of effort, but with the maximum amount of output.” To achieve this feet, it is important to ensure the tissues in the foot are loaded properly. That is to say, no one muscle in the foot is compensating for another. This imbalance can cause not only poor technique and performance, but also exaggerate any pre-existing issues across joints or muscle tissue you may have.
Should I be wearing insoles?
The use of insoles can provide the support required to overcome these issues, and contrary to what many believe, muscle activation can also be improved, resulting in improved output and performance. Giving you more noticeable results within your workouts.
Those who would consider themselves sporty, and run for extended periods with large mile counts are likely to experience a running related injury no matter the prevention measures. This is largely due to the nature of running, being a sport with high impact on key joints associated with mobility. But it’s not just performance runners who are at risk, beginners also risk of developing running injuries caused by improper technique or equipment, which is exaggerated by lifestyle choices like high heeled shoes and sitting for long periods.
How your lifestyle affects your injuries
These lifestyle choices can result in the calf muscle tightening and shortening. Tight calves have an influence on the position the foot, with weight sometimes positioned heavily on the inside of the forefront of the foot. This results in compensations by the foot, ankle and knee in order to cope with this tightening.
The tightening of your calves has a knock on effect to the rest of your body, causing weakness of your core, and reduce the stability of your trunk and pelvis. Yoga and Pilates are great exercises to get involved with when trying to improve your core strength. If you’re not sure where to start, Circle Health’s physiotherapists are able to assess your ability and advise the best exercises and activities to do to improve your overall mobility.Learn more about our consultant orthotist, Nick Gallogly
Comfortable shoes are important
Running shoes are said to be the most important aspect of running, but in truth they are just one component in a long list of factors that influence your risk to injury. These factors are both intrinsic (your mechanics, your technique and your natural alignment) as well as extrinsic (the environment you run on and your equipment). Regardless of any advice you receive when purchasing that all important running shoe, the most important factor when choosing is comfort. When your running shoes are comfortable to wear they can help you to perform to the best of your ability
The running industry and running shoe manufactures has tailored things to enable people to fit into one of three categories of running shoe, but we all have different types of feet, previous medical injuries and histories and different levels of limb strength.
As a result, an analysis of your running technique, commonly known as gait analysis, should be performed by trained professionals to inform your running foot position. The most common running foot positions are neutral, pronated or supinated. Whilst this initial expertise can be useful, a lot of athletes require a more expert approach and clinical assessment. Nick said, “Performing clinical gait analysis gives me detailed information to help minimise my athlete’s chance of injury. This type of analysis focuses on technique, muscle power and efficiency, and the biomechanics of the lower limb. This information allows me as a clinician to guide the runner on the best methods of intervention, which could be physiotherapy or orthotics, to gain the best outcome for them at their goals”.
To put yourself in the best position to reduce injury and improve performance, addressing your day-to-day shoes is actually the best place to start. Usually the smaller heel the better, but a small heel is usually smaller than you might think. Commonly thought to be 1 or 2 inches, a small heel is actually just under an inch, so bear this in mind when choosing day-to-day shoes. A heel stiffener should also be used if required, where your heel is well cupped and supported. These should be fitted by a trained professional, like an Orthotist, and rubber soles should also be worn wherever possible, because of the extra cushioning available compared to other soles.
What else can I do?
Beyond your footwear choices, performing key exercises to improve your calf condition should be used. Circle Health physiotherapists are able to show you these techniques and assess which stretches are best for you. Using these key stretches with soft tissue calf massages are able to improve your calf condition and should stop any further damage.
In conclusion, a whole host of factors affect your running performance and your ability to stay injury free. It’s important to ensure you understand how your running style, shoe choice and insole work together to affect your performance. The Circle physiotherapy team and our consultant orthotist, Mr Nick Gallogly are able to diagnose and treat any issues you may have with movement, as well as specific running related injuries.Do you have hip pain?