Free Resource: Free Book about Preventing and Treating Running Injuries

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Running is one of the most accessible sports and forms of exercise. You just need to lace up your shoes, step out your front door and go. This is a double-edged sword. Since many people end up injured. After all, it's just running. How hard can it be? My name is Dr. Andrew Schneider, and I'm a podiatrist in Houston, Texas. In my practice, I work with many runners of all levels and abilities. From someone training for their first 5K to the seasoned ultra marathoner. In today's video, I'll discuss three important elements to consider to prevent running injuries. 

You can run any time. You can wake up for an early run. Some people will go for a run during their lunch break. Others end the day with a run. You could run anywhere. No matter where you travel, you're able to run. All you need is to lace up your running shoes and go. It's a great way to see new places.

A few years ago, I was traveling to Philadelphia, Mississippi, where I was speaking at a medical conference. After I gave my talks, I wanted to go for a run. At the time I was training for my first half marathon. I was informed that the gym closed already and the only place to run was around their large parking lot. So I did. Lots of people looking at me as I ran miles in circles around their large parking lot. You can run anywhere if you need to.

The first way to run without injury is by choosing the right running shoe. There's a misunderstanding among many people that you can run in any athletic shoe. That's not the case. You want to buy a shoe specifically designed for running.

Next you have to think about brand. Some brands have certain idiosyncrasies about them. For instance, Nike typically runs very narrow. Saucony is known for their straight last. New Balance comes in a variety of widths, making it the go-to shoe for the hard to fit foot. Asics and Brooks are reliable workhorses, although the companies like to change their models pretty often. You also may consider a specialty running shoe. These depend on your running style and they're not right for everyone. They include Hoka One One, which is a well cushioned and supportive shoe. Altra, which is a zero drop shoe where the forefoot is wide to allow the toes Newton shoes have a lug in the midfoot and is designed for runners who strike on their midfoot.

Finally, you need to choose your running shoe based on your foot type. Most running shoes come in three varieties: neutral, stability, and motion control. If you have a stable foot, you want to be in a stability running shoe. These shoes are designed to support a foot that is mechanically efficient. If you have a flat foot, you need to have more control over your mechanics. For those people, I recommend a motion control shoe. If, however, you wear a custom orthotic, that changes things. The orthotic makes your foot work in a more efficient way. So, with an orthotic, you should go into a stability shoe. If you have a high arched foot, you need a shoe that offers more shock absorption. That's because a high arched foot is rigid and doesn't have shock absorption of its own. If you have a high arched foot, you should wear a neutral running shoe. If you wear an orthotic, in this case it doesn't change things. An orthotic does not add any extra shock absorption. So even with a custom orthotic, you should stay in a neutral shoe.

The second consideration to prevent running injuries is running mechanics. This is the age old question of which is right: running with or without a heel strike. Here's the answer. Both are correct. Listen to your body. Too many people get injured by forcing themselves to run with a heel strike. I've even heard of some PE coaches forcing their students to run with a heel strike. Forcing a heel strike can cause Shin Splints, Achilles tendon pain, and heel pain. It is perfectly acceptable to run without a heel strike. In these cases you would land on your midfoot. There's a lot to be said for running with a midfoot strike. For one, your foot is on the ground for a much shorter period of time. This helps you not get tired as quickly. People with a high arched foot are naturally designed to run this way. That said, anyone can do it. If you're used to running with a heel strike and want to try running with a midfoot strike, it'll take some thought and effort. For instance, you'll need to shorten your stride and bend your knees slightly when you strike. You're going to start off slower, but that will pick up. If you've only ever run with the heel strike, give a midfoot strike a try, then pick which one is better for you.

The third consideration to prevent running injuries is the surface you're running on. Not all running surfaces are created equal. That's because of something called the ground reactive force. That's the force that comes up into your foot from the ground. And as I'm sure you can guess, a harder surface, like concrete, has a greater ground reactive force than, let's say, a rubberized track. As you train, be mindful of what you're running on. Running on a hard surface cannot just affect your feet, but also your knees, hips, and back. You also want to ensure that you're running on a level surface. Here in Houston, all of our streets are banked for drainage. So if you run on the side of the road, you're going to be running on different levels. It's as if one leg is longer than the other. That will put you at risk for injury.

A common question I get asked is if a treadmill is a good running surface. As far as shock absorption goes, it's very good. It's not without its problems, however. For one, most people set a speed for the treadmill and don't alter it. Even when they're getting tired. Now, if you're running on the roads and you get tired, you slow down. On the treadmill, you fight to keep up with the treadmill. That puts you at risk for injury. Something to try is to slow the treadmill down very slightly as you run. The other thing with the treadmill is the incline. It's fine to use the incline, but modify it as you run. After all, there's no infinite 45 degree hills. At some point you need to flatten out.