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Running Leaves

Improving Running Performance and Avoiding Injuries

There are many things that keep us from enjoying the mental and physical health benefits of running; don’t let injury be one of them. Running injuries come in many forms and are typically the unfortunate result of a physically repetitive activity. Most running injuries start as aches and pains that come and go with varying levels of intensity and distance. When these aches and pains do not go away and start to affect your form or running gait, injuries happen.

Whether you run on road, trail, track, or treadmill - proper running technique along with injury prevention and self care exercises will reduce the risk of break down and promote a stronger running performance. Knowing how to run and what to do before, during, and after you run can keep the minor aches and pains from becoming major issues that turn into sidelining injuries.  

Runners can reduce pain, help avoid injury, and promote recovery with best practices before, during, and after their activity:

Before you run:

Include dynamic stretching into your warm up routine, including swinging the legs forward, backward and side to side, and marching in place while rotating the hips outward several times. Wear properly fitted running shoes appropriate for the conditions you’ll be in (trail, road, or snow). Shoes should not rub or have pressure spots when you put them on and you should have about a thumb nail length between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. Non-cotton running socks help wick moisture and reduce the risk of blisters.

During a run:

Start out slowly. The first 5 to 10 minutes running should be part of your warm-up. Stay hydrated and do not run through sharp or burning pain that changes your natural gait.

After you run:

Fuel up. Eating well and staying hydrated can also reduce your risk of running injuries. Just like your car needs gas and oil to run smoothly, so does your body. Make sure you’re getting plenty of rest and recovery between runs. Ride a bike, go for a walk or do some other form of cross-training exercise between your harder runs.

Medical support is often needed to support runners’ performance and help them manage and reduce the risk of running injuries by assessing individual mechanics and form. Certified physical therapists help improve performance and address pain through technology-driven assessments of musculoskeletal strength, gait, and range of motion, followed by personalized training programs. 

The OptoGait video analysis and biofeedback system used at the Barton Performance Lab measures a runner’s movement through light emitting diodes (LEDs) to detect and communicate data with video cameras - synchronizing data and measuring a runner’s movement and impact at 1,000 frames per second. Factors assessed include foot strike, positioning in the runner’s midstance and power phases, abnormal motions, initial contact, contact time, flight time, step length, and cadence.

Based on this medical evaluation’s findings, unique movements including abnormal gait patterns that may be causing pain can be identified. Then, a unique biofeedback training and exercise program can be implemented to correct any issues or imbalances observed. If you experience pain while running, you are not alone and there are resources available to help enjoy the activity and get the most out of your run. 

For more information on how to get a running gait analysis and injury prevention exercise program, call the Barton Performance Lab at 530.543.5720 or visit BartonOrthopedicsAndWellness.com/Performance.


Alan Barichievich, MS, PT, is the Director of Rehabilitation, Sports Medicine and Performance with Barton Health.