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Lighten Your Step to Help Prevent Running Injuries

A sprained ankle or a pulled muscle right before marathon season is every runner’s worst nightmare. But recent research suggests that these horrors could be preventable: A new study has found that runners who have never had a running-related injury have lower vertical impact loading, which is one aspect of the force exerted against a runner’s foot when it hits the ground. The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and was reported on by the New York Times. It included 249 female runners—144 of them had experienced at least one previous running-related injury while 105 of them had not. At the start of the study, the runners underwent a gait analysis to analyze the vertical forces on their feet during running. The runners then logged their mileage and any running-related injuries in an online database every month for two years. During the two years, 103 of the participants sought medical attention for running-related injuries, and 21 of the participants reported that they had never experienced a running-related injury. Researchers compared the runner’s vertical force analyses to their running-related injury rates and found that, on average, the vertical forces against the foot were relatively lower in participants who had never experienced a running injury compared with those who had experienced running injuries.

So what can you do to soften the blow? While most runners tend to hit the ground with their heel first, try hitting the ground with your mid-foot instead—this is thought to help cushion and slow the vertical impact forces. Increasing cadence, or the number of steps you take per minute, also appears to help prevent dramatic increases in vertical forces on the foot. Another trick is to imagine that you’re running on eggshells or striding over a pond to change the way your foot hits the ground and soften the effects of injurious forces.

Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine

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