Five factors that play a role in running injuries
Challenging yourself to run farther and faster brings risks. More than half of all runners suffer from pain or injury at some point. Even the most trained runners cannot avoid this. We asked the physical and manual therapist at the Athletics Union, Luc Schout, what you can bear in mind to minimise the risk of a running injury.
An injury is often the result of several factors. By taking the following points into account, you are more likely to be able to clock up your kilometres for longer without pain.
In the event of an injury, the balance between load and load capacity is often out of whack. How much training you can tolerate depends on a number of personal characteristics, such as age, weight and sports background. “You can influence many factors that play a role in injuries, but personal characteristics cannot be changed just like that. You will have to adjust your training load accordingly”, Schout explains. “For example, the older you get, the greater the risk of certain injuries. There is also a gender difference in the type of injury to which a runner is susceptible and external factors, such as stress, can affect your load capacity.” By being aware of the factors that influence your load capacity, you can adjust your training accordingly.
Build up sensibly
If your body is not used to the strain of running, you may be at risk of injury. A good training build-up is therefore important. “There is no such thing as a standard training schedule”, Schout says. “How quickly you can build up your training depends largely on your athletic background. Have you always been athletic? Is this your first time running? Those are questions you have to consider.”
The right shoes
Running shoes can either help to prevent injuries or aggravate them. It is important that you choose a shoe that fits well and fits the position and shape of your feet. Think about what you are looking for in a shoe. Do you prefer a sturdy shoe with lots of cushioning or a light, fast version? “You would think that a shoe with a lot of cushioning would be a safe choice, because it would absorb the impact. But a lighter shoe can actually make you land more on your forefoot, which distributes the force better”, Schout explains. What suits you best depends on your individual preferences. In any event, Schout does recommend choosing for quality in any case. A five-year-old shoe loses its functionality, increasing the risk of injury.
Improve your running technique
The better your running technique, the lower the risk of injury. “For a good running technique, it doesn’t matter whether you are a heel lander or a forefoot lander. It’s about the way you run and which muscles you use,” says Schout, who as a physiotherapist is involved in mapping the strong and less-strong structures in the body and their effect on running technique. “If your foot or hip sag inwards, for example, you can compensate for this by training certain muscles.”
Strengthen hip muscles
According to Schout, the major source of injuries is the area around the hips. This is because the hip and buttock muscles provide stability and power for the forward movement during running. “In many runners, the area around the hips is underdeveloped. That is the core of most overuse injuries, because it can cause an imbalance in the entire chain," Schout says. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to do strengthening exercises aimed at stabilising the hips. “However, the other muscles, tendons and joints must not be forgotten either. The entire body must be in balance.”