If you’re like most runners, one of your primary goals is to reduce the incidence of injury so you can continue to run pain-free while trying to improve performance and longevity within the sport. Although this is a great goal to have for any runner, we must first understand that running is a painful sport and preventing injuries from occurring altogether is unlikely.
With up to 70% of runners getting injured each and every year, it’s unrealistic to think that we can prevent injuries completely. Instead, I recommend shifting your focus to mitigating the risk of injury and reducing the severity by emphasizing many of the injury reduction strategies covered in this article.
We are fortunate that running is a very specific and predictable movement pattern that has been thoroughly examined over the years. With the growing research in this area, it’s clear which biomechanical characteristics need to be addressed to see an improvement in performance. This often puts runners on a path for running longer distances and faster paces.
However, it’s also this same predictable and repetitive movement pattern which can increase our risk of injury. Too much of the same thing is not always better for the human body. This can lead to a loss in overall joint mobility, a reduction in bone mineral density & maximal muscle strength, and other declines which make us more susceptible to running-related injuries.
In 2013, Malisoux et al published an article called, “Can Parallel Use of Different Running Shoes Decrease Running-Related Injury Risk?” This was a fantastic research study which found the following results…
- The parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was a protective factor against injury
- Previous injury was a risk factor for future injury
- Increased average running session distance and increased weekly volume in other sports were associated with lower running-related injury risk
To summarize their conclusion, “Multiple shoe use and participation in other sports are strategies potentially leading to a variation of the load applied to the musculoskeletal system. They could be advised to recreational runners to prevent running-related injury.” Therefore, as much as running is a specific and predictable movement pattern, incorporating some degree of variability within your routine is recommended and needed to reduce the overall injury risk.
Variability is defined in the dictionary as…
“Lack of consistency or fixed pattern; liability to vary or change.”
As we reflect on the research article, we know that one of the key factors which leads to this reduced injury risk is variability to the magnitude, direction, and type of load applied on the system. Therefore, by wearing different running shoes, moving in other planes of motion, applying different forces, and having a degree of variety within your running plain, you can offset your injury risk.
Former olympic runner and running coach, Nicole Sifuentes, talks about ways to include variety within your running plan in her article called, “3 Rules for Running Success.” This can be accomplished by manipulating the effort, pace, terrain, and type of training.
From a movement standpoint, variability can be emphasized within your pre-run routine, strength training program, and by partaking in a different sport or activity on alternate days throughout the week. Truthfully, I think all of these have merit to promote longevity and a reduced injury risk while being individualized to the needs of each runner.
Interested in being the best runner you can be while following this variability principle to offset your injury risk? Click here to learn more about the Healthy Running Program.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART