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From heel landing, stretching to make you faster and shoes for different arch heights, we aim to clear up these murky waters with 5 of the biggest running myths busted.
It is estimated that over 35 million people run in the USA alone for exercise or for sport(1). Runners are living in a confusing, challenging and ever-changing world. There are so many conflicting opinions out there about what shoe you should wear, how your foot should be landing, whether you should lean forward or not, stretching is bad for you… I could go on but, but I’m sure you get my point!
This conflicting information needs to be cleared up. For you, the runner – whether it be for fitness or competition – and for us health professionals, because we as often as anyone else are always on the look out for the exciting new bit of research, the next quick fix or magic bullet for running injuries. With the incidence of running injuries ranging from 26% upwards, we need to be doing the right things and know what will and will not help us.(2)
So what are the biggest 5 running myths busted?
1. Buying running shoes based on arch height help prevent injury
Whether you have high arches, low arches or neutral feet – Having shoes prescribed for this does not reduce your injury risk. Between us we all have such a great variety of foot shapes, which obviously can’t be nicely placed into 3 boxes(6).
You can read more here.
2. Stretching helps prevent injury
Even though this is the factor most often thought of as the cause behind running injuries, it is simply not true(3). There is a very common belief around the world that stretching before, during or after exercise decreases the chance of injury and improves recovery, but in actual fact it has been shown that stretching is not protective of running injuries (4). Static stretching could even affect your performance.(12)
It does need to be mentioned though that often stretching is mistaken for warming up. Warming up is defined as a period of prepatory exercise to enhance subsequent training or exercise(5). Warming up does help and has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of injury.
Good, run-specific strength and conditioning can really help your running.
Just remember, it isn’t all about the strength, you need to have neuromuscular control. This means making sure that you training is functional and running specific.
4. Minimalist/ Barefoot shoes make you run better
It isn’t about the shoe, it is about HOW you run. Yes, landing on your mid-foot when running reduces the load though your lower limb and reduces risk of injury, but this is altered through your technique (such as increasing your cadence or driving through with your knee) and not through shoes.(11)
First, look at you running technique, then your shoes.
As Bryab Heiderscheit writes “There is too much heterogeneity among runners to believe that one running pattern is universally ideal”(13). For example, changing running style to promote forefoot or mid foot strike may unload the knee and shin pain but it would be wrong for someone with for example a stress reaction or inter-metatarsal bursitis.
Rather, this paper suggests that we may be better off showing people how not to run, giving a couple of things that do lead to poor economy and increased injury risk. These would be things such as not over-striding (foot landing well ahead of the center of mass) and not bouncing up and down too much.
You simply cannot put everyone into the same box – but there are some aspects that do benefit the majority, and these should be promoted.
So there are your 5 running myths BUSTED – what do you think? Surprised?
It is important that we embrace an approach that is not one size fits all, and that is holistic in nature, that takes into account nutrition, goals, ability etc. The other big thing that needs to be looked into further is training error, which has been estimated to account for over 70% of running injuries. This is a huge amount of injuries that are due to training error (running too far, too fast, too long, too soon) – Maybe more needs to be done to place some guidelines around training progression and the best way to go about this. Especially for beginners as they have a 2-3 x higher risk of injury.
I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on these running myths, see the comments section below or find me on twitter.
Yours in good health,