If you’ve ever gone for a run or are confident enough to call yourself a runner, you have likely experienced some form of knee pain. Knee injuries are the most common complaint in runners and can range from a strain to a complete ligament tear. Running is a high-impact sport that stresses every tissue in the body. Overuse, undertraining, poor flexibility, or aggravating factors can only serve to make knee injuries more prevalent. In today’s post, we are going to explore some things you can do to prevent knee injuries so you can train strong whether you are running as training for another sport or you intend to complete an ultra marathon.
Work on Your Gait
It’s true, running is one of the most natural sports we can participate in. Simply lace up your shoes and hit the trail, well, running. However, there most definitely is a right way to run and a wrong way to run. We’ve all seen runners who look like a wounded bear while others are graceful like a free-range gazelle; the difference is in their stride. When you work on your form and practice perfecting your gait, you can not only reduce your risk for knee injuries, but also reduce pain from running in general and improve speed and endurance! You can get a running assessment done at your local physical therapist’s office or running store, or, you can record yourself running and analyze the footage for areas that could use improvement. Some places to start include:
- Avoid heel striking
- Keep your knees swinging low (unless you are sprinting)
- Lean forward
- Keep your knees “soft” or slightly bent
- Keep your feet “aimed” at where you are running — avoid pigeon toeing
If you run as part of another sport, such as soccer, basketball, lacrosse, rugby, baseball, or football, it may be difficult to prevent twisting as the sports rely on you to be able to make split-second decisions and change both direction and speed abruptly. You should make every effort to regularly attempt to avoid twisting at the knees while running as it can severely injure your ligaments, tendons, and muscles that support your knee. Some ways to help mitigate the risk of twisting include watching where you are running, making smooth transitions, and avoiding uneven terrain when you can. If you participate in sports where twisting is highly unavoidable, try wearing protective gear including braces or practicing movements to prevent twisting individual joints.
Warm Up AND Cool Down
Any seasoned runner will tell you that warmup and cool down are much more important to your run and the safety of your joints than anything else. Skipping either puts you at risk of injury. Warm-ups can be little more than lubricating movements like high knees and butt kicks or a short jog to warm up your body. A cool-down should be much more intensive than your warm-up and include a variety of stretching movements to remove lactic acid buildup and evenly distribute stress and tension throughout your limbs. One of the best running cooldowns include slow jogs or walking to get the blood pumping and reduce inflammation.
Know Your Limits
Running is not a sport where egos come to play. You have to know your limits to run safely. If you have not trained for a race, don’t push yourself. Be honest about the miles you’ve put in and treat your body accordingly. Remember Pheidippides collapsed and died in Athens after covering the distance of 26.2 miles without ever having run that distance before. Respect the distance because it does not respect you.
Every athlete knows that performing the same motion over and over will only lead to injury. Even NFL kickers take some time to bench press a few times a week! It may seem counterintuitive at first, but cross-training does not distract from your running goals, but can actually help you reach them faster. Try cross-training with various cardio events such as swimming or cycling, which are both low-impact and cardio-intensive. A few times a week, ditch cardio altogether and weight lift for strength and to build the muscles that support your joints. Every now and again, or better yet, regularly, toss some yoga or deep stretching into the mix to loosen up your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All of these cross-training opportunities will only help to make you stronger, more flexible, and improve your endurance.
Invest in Shock-Absorbing Shoe Inserts
Running shoes are specially designed to improve performance, promote comfort, disperse force, and reduce injury. When you invest in shoe insoles that are meant for running, they are specially created to soften the blow on common pain points such as the heel, the arch, or on the pad of your sole. JMAC shock-absorbing insoles are tapered from 0.25 to 0.125 inches for heel to toe comfort and made of Americules Impact Material (AIM™), an ultra-soft polymer that absorbs and disperses more than 92% of the force that would otherwise be absorbed by your body, namely your joints. As added bonuses, which have little to do with knee health, these shoe inserts are also antimicrobial and completely washable, making them the ideal insole for your running shoes.
At JMAC Insoles, we know how important the proper pair of shoes and shoe inserts are to the success of your sport and the health of your knees. While you can use our inserts for nearly any activity in nearly any shoe, we are supportive of runners and athletes. Add our insoles to your favorite pair of running shoes or cleats and play comfortably. Shop online today.