Have you ever been told that you shouldn’t run because it will damage the knee? Or that you need to wear a specific type of shoe in order to run safely? Well I have… and let me tell you, after doing a lot of my own research, I can confidently say that there is a lot of mixed information out there.
So, if you will indulge me, I thought I would clarify and debunk ten of the more common running-related myths that currently exist…
1. Cause of Running-Related Injuries
Myth: Most running-related injuries are caused by bad shoes, unsafe running surfaces, muscle weakness, or lack of flexibility.
Reality: We now know that injury risk has little to do with the shoes you wear, the surfaces you tread, or how flexible/strong you are. Approximately 80% of all running-related injuries are instead caused by an overly rapid increase in training volume and/or intensity. In other words, we get hurt when we do too much too soon!
2. Training Frequency
Myth: After taking a prolonged break from running, it is safe to immediately resume training at the same intensity/volume as before.
Reality: To avoid a running-related injury, it might be most beneficial to ensure that the body is given enough time to gradually re-adapt to the mechanical stresses of running. I often recommend to patients that they re-start a regular running routine with interval training. After a prolonged rest, it is a good idea to give yourself approximately 4-8 weeks to get used to the swing of things.
3. Running Shoes
Myth: Shoes that provide a lot of cushioning and pronation-control reduce shock and protect a runner from injury.
Reality: Clinical and scientific research does not support the use of a cushioned or pronation-controlled shoe to reduce the incidence of running-related injuries. Cushioning can in fact change foot strike and alter force transfer through the lower body, which can increase mechanical stress on the skeleton.
4. Running Surfaces
Myth: Hills and hard surfaces increase the risk of running-related injuries.
Reality: Once again, it comes down to tissue adaptation. If you are use to running on soft surfaces all the time and then you immediately switch to a harder surface, you can increase your risk of injury. However, if the body is allowed the proper time and training to adapt to a new surface, injury risk remains the same. For the appropriately adapted runner, all running surfaces present with the same level of risk. No one surface has been clearly identified as more likely to cause injury.
5. Flat Feet
Myth: Flat feet and other anatomical abnormalities increase the risk of a running-related injury.
Reality: Inherent anatomical and biomechanical predispositions have not been shown to increase the risk of injury. Your body, however it presents, has the capacity to adapt to the mechanical stresses you place upon it. In its own unique way, your body can learn to run safely and without an added risk of injury.
Myth: Orthotics prevent and treat running-related injuries by providing the body with proper alignment and positioning.
Reality: The scientific research on this subject appears to be very mixed and unclear as to the true, long-term effect of foot orthotics and running-related injuries. The research does support the short-term use of orthotics for the treatment of certain running-related foot pathologies (i.e., metatarsalgia and stress fracture to the small bones of the foot).
Myth: Static stretching before and after running reduces injury risk, improves performance, and accelerates post-run recovery.
Reality: Static stretching before a run can actually increase injury risk, negatively impact speed and endurance, and has no effect on post-run pain or recovery. Research has found dynamic stretching before and after a run to be a beneficial way of safely preparing the muscles for the run in a warm-up and cool-down fashion. Recent evidence has also shown that runners tend to perform better when the muscles of the lower body are a little on the tight side.
8. Knee Injury / Arthritis
Myth: Running causes significant and repeated impact on the knee which leads to an increased risk of developing arthritis and other injuries.
Reality: Several studies have shown that developing arthritis is no more common in runners than in non-runners. In fact, with proper and repeated exposure to the mechanical stresses of running, knee cartilage becomes thicker and stronger than that of a sedentary person. The key here is that the mechanical stress is applied gradually over time and does not exceed the body’s ability to adapt.
9. Ice / Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Myth: Ice and anti-inflammatory medications help an injured runner control excessive swelling and speed-up the rate of healing, with no negative impact on tissue.
Reality: Inflammation is a very natural and necessary part of the healing process. It is designed to clean up the damaged tissue created by injury and facilitate the repair process. When inflammation is inhibited by medication or ice, we ultimately prohibit the proper healing of tissues, making them more vulnerable to future injury.
Myth: To prevent overheating (hyperthermia) during endurance activity, you must drink often even when not thirsty.
Reality: The research in this area is mixed. So far, there is no solid evidence to support the idea that it is necessary to drink before feeling thirsty in order to prevent hyperthermia. It is important to note, however, that with excessive fluid intake, there can be serious repercussions caused by hyponatremia.
So there you have it! A little debunking of a few common myths floating around in the running world. If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to address your specific needs, please feel free to contact me any time!
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