Busting NYC Running Myths: 5 Dangerous Running Myths That Could Lead to Foot and Ankle Injuries
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, November 6th, 2015
If you’re a serious runner in New York City, The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine is a great place to stop by for a chat. We don’t just diagnose and treat injuries here. We’re in the business of preventing injuries and helping runners reach their maximum potential as well! You can think of us as knowledgeable personal trainers who are prepared to help you tackle any question or obstacle in your way as you continue to lead a healthy, active life doing the activities you enjoy most.
We’ve treated injuries on the sidelines of the NYC Triathlon, Hamptons Marathon, and Bridgehampton Half Marathon. We’ve worked with Olympic athletes, the New York Road Runners Club, and the Central Park Track Club. In fact, our Manhattan office is located right next to Central Park, so it’s a convenient place to come in, whether you have pressing questions that need answering, a nagging pain, or an interest in our computerized gait analysis lab.
In this article, we’ll cover a few of the common running myths we’ve encountered in our practice to illustrate how a discussion with board-licensed podiatrists and sports medicine doctors can help you prevent injury.
Myth 1: It’s better to land with your forefoot than your heel.
Reality: The barefoot running community contends that it’s unnatural for runners to hit with heavy heel strikes — and that the more “natural” way to run is with a forefoot strike. However, researchers at the University of Massachusetts recently demonstrated that forefoot strikers actually suffer a greater risk of muscle injury.1http://lermagazine.com/issues/may/biomechanist-challenges-idea-that-forefoot-strike-pattern-reduces-runners-injury-rate Forefoot strikers take on more force at the ankle and less at the knee, according to scientists. The heel is a “much less delicate structure than the forefoot,” say researchers, and is better suited to absorb higher impact.
Professor of kinesiology Joseph Hamill concluded: “From a biomechanical perspective, there does not seem to be a benefit to barefoot running or, to me, forefoot running.” If you want pointers on form, we’d love to have you stop by our gait analysis center — which we consider a “must” for any avid runner!
Myth #2: Stretching before you run will prevent injury.
Reality: We’ve all been raised to do warm-ups at gym class, but research shows that static stretching before a run actually decreases strength, power, and muscle performance. A meta-analysis of 104 studies from 1966 to 2010 published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports reported that: “The usage of static stretching as the sole activity during warm-up routine should generally be avoided.”2http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22316148
Instead, it’s best to warm up with more dynamic exercises — marching, high knees, and butt kicks, for instance, which prepare the joints and muscles for continuous movement. Static stretching is better post-run, when the muscles have had a chance to warm up. Check out this article on how to stretch with common running injuries like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and stress fractures.
Myth #3: Runners who overpronate need special shoes.
“Overpronation” occurs when the foot rolls excessively inward during the normal gait cycle. Danish researchers at Aarhus University looked at 927 healthy adults from ages 18 to 65 who were new to running.3http://pure.au.dk/portal/en/publications/foot-pronation-is-not-associated-with-increased-injury-risk-in-novice-runners-wearing-a-neutral-shoe(e15ae933-581c-4284-81ae-43d1b6084ec0).html They classified the volunteers into five groups: neutral pronation, overpronation, severe overpronation, underpronation, and severe underpronation. All runners were given the same model of lightweight, neutral running shoes, along with a GPS watch that tracked mileage. After one year, the group logged over 203,000 miles and developed 300 medically-confirmed injuries. Surprisingly, researchers found that overpronators and underpronators were not more likely to develop an injury. In fact, injury rates were higher among runners with neutral feet who covered at least 600 miles a year. Other unrelated studies have confirmed that choosing shoes based on comfort, rather than specified “motion control features” or pronation level yields the lowest rate of injury.
Researcher Rasmus Ostergaard Nielsen said that runners would be better off paying attention “to things like body mass, training, behavior, age and previous injury in order to prevent running-related injuries.”4http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/26/the-myth-of-pronation-and-running-injuries/?_r=1 These things are all important, but we tend to agree with podiatrist Wayne Edwards who argues, “The vast majority of running injuries are due to poor foot function and poor muscle balance.”5http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/19/how-to-avoid-running-injuries A wide variety of foot shapes and arch types is perfectly normal. We have noticed that people with lower arches tend to find motion-control shoes most comfortable, average arched feet tend to prefer neutral shoe designs and people with higher arches tend to benefit from a little extra cushioning — but these are not across-the-board standards. We can counsel you on shoe choice options based on your feet to help make your next shopping trip a breeze, but it’s ultimately up to you to try on several different pairs of shoes, run around the store in them and decide what strikes your fancy.
Myth #4: Running on hard surfaces wears out your joints faster.
Reality: Humans are very resilient creatures. Force gets absorbed through the muscle, tendon, and cartilage of the feet, ankles, legs, knees, and hips. The body copes with stress and adapts to varying surfaces through the adjustment of stride — the bend in our hips, knees, and ankles, particularly. A study published in the Foot and Ankle International journal in 2008 found that the incidence of tendonitis increased ten-fold when people ran on softer surfaces like sand, compared to harder surfaces asphalt pavement.6http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18785416 As Dr. Stuart J. Warden, director of the Indiana Center for Translational Musculoskeletal Research at Indiana University, told The New York Times, changing your running surface “is much like increasing your mileage, changing your shoes or some other aspect of your training program,” meaning that any sudden, abrupt change can be damaging to the body.7http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/health/nutrition/19best.html
We believe that trail running can be good for the body in that it uses different muscle groups and strengthens the body in different ways than road running. It’s also wise to reduce your risk of overuse injury by strength training to increase bone density, changing your stride to a lighter/faster/shorter length to reduce the force on the legs, and cross-training with cycling and other sports to use different muscle and tendon groups. Also, avoid taking on too much, too soon!
Do you have questions about running injuries in NYC? Contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine today.
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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.