With the approach of spring, the running and race season is moving into high gear. With that in mind, William T. Beasley, DPM, and Kay Vannoy, PT, offer expert tips on what runners can do to help prevent injuries. Dr. Beasley is a podiatrist with Kleinert Kutz Surgery Center in Affiliation with Baptist Health Floyd who understands how important it is to help people get back to the activity that means so much to them. Kay Vannoy, physical therapist and supervisor of the Rehab Department at Baptist Health Floyd, has been an athlete all her life and has run two marathons and several mini-marathons.
Good Running Shoes are Essential
Dr. Beasley stressed the importance of shoes that are appropriate for the activity. “Running shoes,” he said, “need to be well padded around the ankle, have a cushioned insole and firm heel counter for support. They should have an elevated insole to absorb shock, a flexible midsole that allows you to push off, and heels that flare out for stability.” He added that it’s important to break in shoes gradually, and to replace them when they lose their stability or shock absorption. “That usually happens after about 450 to 500 miles of running,” he said. Vannoy suggested that a locally owned running store may be your best choice when purchasing running shoes. “Staff members are often more knowledgeable,” she said. “They’ll watch you run in the shoe and make sure it fits properly.”
Follow the 10 Percent Rule
Vannoy advises runners not to increase their distance more than 10 percent a week. “If you do,” she explained, “you put yourself at much higher risk for problems like shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome, a painful knee condition.”
Work Rest into Your Schedule
As Dr. Beasley put it, “To overtrain is to overstrain. Rest and proper nutrition are very important to muscles and joints.” “Instead of running seven days a week,” advises Vannoy, “break it up with swimming or bike riding for less wear and tear on your joints.”
Add Strength Training to the Mix
“Strength training can prevent injuries and help you run faster, too,” said Vannoy. “Exercises that strengthen the back and front of your calf and thigh are especially helpful.”
“Slow, controlled stretching is very important,” said Dr. Beasley. “Try to hold your position for 30 seconds. And never bounce. That will do more harm than good.” Vannoy recommends warming up before you stretch by doing something like brisk walking for about 10 minutes. Warm muscles stretch better and are less prone to injury.
Pay Attention to Pain
Both experts agree that pain is usually a sign that something is wrong and should not be ignored. RICE therapy – rest, ice, compression and elevation – can speed healing and decrease pain. And you may have to stop the activity that’s causing the pain and substitute another, at least temporarily. But if the pain isn’t gone after a week or two, you should see a doctor.
According to Dr. Beasley, “A number of approaches may be helpful, including the use of an orthotic, a specially fitted shoe insert that can lessen stress on feet and legs, provide extra balance and support and address any kind of structural weakness. Other treatments may include physical therapy, ultrasound, massage, whirlpool or substituting an activity like swimming or biking. As Vannoy said, “The key is to see a doctor promptly. Problems are usually much easier to treat if you deal with them quickly.”