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How to prevent running injuries?

Summer is fast approaching and many of us, wanting to get in shape, wanna start or simply resume running. There are several injuries that can occur if we are not careful when resuming this sports. We will discuss some points to prevent the occurrence of these injuries.

Rule number 1 : have the right equipment

Here, we talk mostly about shoes. You may have heard about minimalist shoes or barefoot, even the maximalist shoes! It can sometimes be difficult to navigate with the different levels of information available. The minimalist shoes (ie, slim, lightweight, flexible shoe and a minimal heel-toe height difference) seem to be the most optimal choice. In summary, although it is not clear beyond doubt that minimalist footwear reduces the risk of injury, it reduces the impact forces at the lower limb joints during running and allows a more optimal biomechanical running pattern level. Therefore, less stress and better biomechanics means minimizing the risk of injuries during running.


Rule number 2 : follow an appropriate progression for your condition

Everyone, no matter the physical condition, can start running and hope to progress without injuring themselves. The key here is to start with a running program that is right for you. There is a multitude of programs to start or resume running. Whether you want to do a 5 km, a 10 km, a half marathon or even a marathon, know that there is a program for that! The key to all programs is in the progression of the intensity as well as the volume of race per week depending on your tolerance.

For beginners, it is recommended to start with an interval running program. An interval program involves alternating between running and walking. For example, alternate one minute of running and one minute of walking for x number of repetitions. This interval of efforts will allow your body to adapt to the mechanical demands imposed by running. The number of repetitions is progressed as long as there is no pain. If, at a certain level, any pain arises (i.e., achilles tendon, feet, etc.), do not progress to the next step but return to the previous one to reduce the pain and limit the risk of injury. This is the concept of mechanical stress quantification. We want to subject our body to mechanical stress high enough that it adapts but not too much for injuries to occur. If every runner, both beginner and experienced, respects this progression, the risk of injuries secondary to running will be greatly minimized. To discover the different running programs, you can consult the website of the Running clinic.


Rule number 3 : have the right running technique

Having the right equipment and following the proper progression of running is essential to prevent injuries during running. Another important element to consider and that few people think about is the racing technique. It has long been taught that in order to run efficiently you have to take long strides to get power. However, recent studies suggest that a shorter stride with a cadence of 180 steps per minute would reduce energy consumption during the race as well as the impact forces transmitted by the ground to the joints during running. Less impact force, less risk of injuries!

In addition to cadence, the way the foot makes contact with the ground can influence the impact forces transmitted by the ground to the joints and thus, the potential for injury during running. Based on research, the most recommended ground foot attack in recent years is an attack with the mid-foot and not the heel. A heel strike exposes the joints to a greater impact force compared to a mid-foot attack thereby increasing the potential for injury. So, a mid-foot attack would be preferred to prevent injury. This attack will be done in a natural way by reducing the length of the steps as well as by increasing the cadence as mentioned above.

To find out if you run with the right technique, there are running evaluation centers in our clinics with a three-dimensional camera system. Using the video and combined with a biomechanical assessment of your condition, the physiotherapist can give you the appropriate advice to optimize your running technique and thus minimize the risk of injury.


In conclusion…

Running is inexpensive and can be extremely beneficial for your health when properly practiced. If you follow the advices of this article, the risk of injury will be minimal no matter what type of runner you are. The most important advice is to use proper progression and listen to your body. Do not try to play the superhero and run on a pain! For any questions or to have a detailed evaluation and specific advice, do not hesitate to contact our physiotherapists.


By Guillaume Desroches, physiotherapist at Physiotherapie Universelle Vanier clinic.

  • La Clinique du Coureur
  • Almeida, M. O., Davis, I. S., & Lopes, A. D. (2015). Biomechanical differences of foot-strike patterns during running: a systematic review with meta-analysis.
  • Bowersock, C. D., Willy, R. W., DeVita, P., & Willson, J. D. (2017). Independent effects of step length and foot strike pattern on tibiofemoral joint forces during running.
  • Connick, M. J., & Li, F. X. (2014). Changes in timing of muscle contractions and running economy with altered stride pattern during running.