Stretching is one of those things that many runners don't like to do. In fact participants in all sports, all who would benefit from stretching, don't take enough time to do so. Stretching accomplishes several things. It provides gradual "warm up" to the muscle fibers prior to putting additional stress on them during exercise. Stretching also helps to eliminate lactic acid buildup from muscles after a workout. Stretching is indeed an important element to help increase your fitness level and to prevent running injuries.
There are different philosophies as to when is the best time to stretch. Some feel they stretching is best prior to a run. Others recommend stretching after a brief warmup. Still others stress stretching after a run. None of these philosophies are wrong and you should choose a stretching regimen that works for you.
One pitfall many runners encounter is developing a stretching regimen that is too long. We often take an "all or none" approach to stretching. We either do the whole stretching routine, or none. Time gets in the way and "none" often wins out. Focus on key stretches for the major muscle groups and get it done first. If you have time, stretch more.
Not stretching enough can make overuse injuries, such as heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, and shin splints, more likely. If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain, contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for an immediate appointment and comprehensive evaluation.