A recently published New York Times’ article (1) about running injuries by author Gretchen Reynolds provides new discoveries and useful actions regarding prevention of running injuries! Here’s my take and additions.

This is the time of year I start to see more runners on my massage schedule. Most are coming in for pre-race season treatment which focuses on improving the runner’s performance as well as injury prevention. A few receive orthopedic sports massage for niggling issues such as tight ITB, shin splints, pain in the feet etcetera.

Ms. Reynolds points out that as many as a whopping 90 percent of runners miss training time every year due to injury! A very recent stud(2) set out to find out the effect of impact loading. Impact loading is the amount of force we create when we strike the ground and is inevitable in running. A group of 249 experienced female recreational runners was tracked for two years. This group was chosen in part BECAUSE they all struck the ground with their heels, as do most runners.

Here is the real news: Previous studies (and common belief) are likely to attribute running injury to increased mileage, over-striding, weak hips, hard running surfaces and the like. While these issues contribute to running injuries, there is another far more reliable predictor of running injury risk.

The study went a step further and took a close look at the 21 runners who remained uninjured during the two year study.

According to the article’s author “The never-injured runners, as a group, landed far more lightly than those who had been seriously hurt, the scientists found, even when the researchers controlled for running mileage, body weight and other variables.That finding refutes the widely held belief that a runner cannot land lightly on her heels.”

Harvard researcher, Irene Davis, noted that one of the women in the uninjured group pounded far less than many runners who landed near the front of their feet. Dr. Davis went on to say “When you watched her run, it was like seeing an insect running across water. It was beautiful.”

Study conclusions
  • Contrary to popular belief - It’s not terribly relevant whether you land on your heel, mid-foot, or forefoot! Nor is the shoe type or barefoot the best predictor or injury
  • The harder the strike impact on any part of the foot, the more likely it is that the runner will sustain an injury.

My takeaway
I’m not going to worry so much about heel vs. midfoot vs. forefoot landing. My mental image has been running across water with the wings of mercury upon my feet.

I’ve only just recently put this thought into practice during the running portion of my walk/run interval training exercise while also remaining cognizant of injury producing habits, which I’ve dubbed the “Terrible Toos” (too much, too fast, too long – you get the idea).

Only time will tell if this more common sense approach keeps me on the run! I hope it helps you too come race time.

Happy trails,
Denise Williams
NY State Licensed Massage Therapist
  1. NY Times- NY edition 2/16/2016 pg D6 headline: Why We Get Running Injuries
  2. December in the British Journal of Sports Medicine



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