Repetitive stress causes injuries. People who type all day, every day get carpal tunnel syndrome at some point. It may not happen in the first week or even the first year on the job, but people who type that much can expect their hands to eventually start to ache as a result. The same is true for runners. Everyone who runs on a regular basis, especially over long distances, suffers some type of leg injury and pain as a result. The constant pounding takes a toll on the feet, knees and hips. This article from October 16 discusses a new study focusing on running strides and ways to limit injury by using the proper stride.
Abig debate in distance running over the past few years is whether the front of the foot or the heel should strike the ground first. Runners who run barefoot almost always land with the front of their foot first, which has led to the thinking that this is the proper way to run to prevent injury.
Researchers at the Tampere Research Center of Sports Medicine in Tampere, Finland, studied 286 young adults to test that theory. These young athletes all played sports on teams and none competed in distance running. Of the 286, 19 women and 4 men struck the ground with their forefeet first.
The article points out that in the Finnish study, the researchers studied the 19 women to determine the amount of force that their strides caused. The women were studied while they ran to determine the impact of both heel strikes and forefoot strikes.
The results showed that the heel strikes led to a jarring in the knees. This impact in the knees was 16 percent stronger from heel strikes than forefoot strikes. Conversely, forefoot strikes led to pain and stress in the ankle and Achilles’ tendon.
So what does this mean for runners? It means that regardless of stride, runners are going to suffer injuries due to repetitive stress. Strike with the heel and accept knee injuries. Strike with the forefoot and deal with foot/ankle issues.
So how can runners avoid injury altogether? Juha-Pekka Kulmala, a PhD candidate who led the study, suggests changing stride patterns during runs. If a runner has knee issues, focus on forefoot striking. If a runner has foot/ankle issues, focus on heel striking.
Mr. Kulmala recognizes that altering strides can be very difficult, especially for less experienced runners. His recommendation is to ask a coach for help or tape a run to review how the foot is striking the ground and make changes as necessary.