Running is a great way to maintain fitness, but many worry about what years of pounding the pavement will do to their body.
Now, research is showing that running ‘softer’ can help potentially limit a runner’s injuries.
The study looked at 320 novice runners and measured their landing force at two paces – a slower 12-minute-per-mile pace and a quicker 8-minute-per-mile pace.
They had half of the runners learn to run ‘softer’ while the other runners made no changes in running style.
After 12 months, researchers found that the runners who learned to run ‘softer’ had 62 percent less injuries than the runners who made no changes.
Christopher Travers, an exercise physiologist at Cleveland Clinic, did not take part in the study, but said the way a person runs does have an impact on how their body feels.
“If you’re quad-dominant, you might put a lot more pressure to your knee when you’re running,” he said. “If you’re running more stiff-legged, you’re putting more force to your knee when you’re landing – you’re not landing with a bent leg – which we’re looking for to get a softer landing.”
Travers said that running softer involves making changes to what part of the foot strikes the ground first, and landing softer in the knee.
For runners who want to learn how to fix their stride to reduce injury, he suggests starting with a metronome and counting foot strikes per minute.
It’s also important for runners to check where their shoes are wearing out to see where their feet are landing.
“Check your shoes,” said Travers. “Where are your wear-patterns? Are you wearing out your heels quicker? Are you wearing out the mid-foot? Are you wearing out the right or left sides?”
Travers said runners should always listen to their bodies. Shin pain or knee pain may be an indication that a runner is over-striding or not utilizing the proper muscles.
He said anytime we start a new activity, or pick up one that we haven’t done in a while, our bodies will be sore, but when a person has constant pain with every step, it’s time to seek medical care.
For beginner runners, Travers said the most important place to start is with a proper shoe-fitting.
“The biggest thing with running is making sure you are taking care of your feet, which means getting the right shoes” he said. “Your shoes are, by far, the most important piece of equipment when you start running. You can’t go and buy any pair of shoes off the shelf; you have to get fitted for your footwear.”
Complete results of the study can be found in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.