Two Ways To Prevent Running Injuries

A study suggests using variability in your strike pattern can keep you healthier.

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Two ways to vary your run training to prevent injury.

Triathletes are all about variety. That’s why the results of a recent study regarding running injuries—or rather how to prevent them—are welcome news. Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers recruited 69 male and female runners to determine whether there was any relationship between step-by-step strike differences and running injuries. The participants were split into two groups—those who had sustained a running injury in the past year and those who had not.

After putting participants on treadmills and assessing things like their “stride-to-stride variability of strike index,” contact time, flight time, stride time and stride length, the researchers made some complicated calculations to determine each runner’s “coefficient of variance.” Put simply, this showed how much each person’s foot strike varied from one step to the next. What they found was that those who had greater variability were less likely to have suffered an injury in the previous year. The assumption is that when you have less variance upon striking the ground, you load the same tissues step after step. However, when there is greater variability in each step, you spread the work around.

Since overhauling your stride can be a tricky endeavor, the two easiest ways to ensure variability in your strike pattern are to train on different types of terrain and to rely on more than one pair of running shoes.

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Varying Terrain

From grass to dirt to gravel and even sand, there are many terrain options that exist beyond pavement. “Your stride will naturally adjust depending on terrain,” explains Dara Wittenberg, a USA Triathlon and USA Track and Field-certified coach in Boca Raton, Fla. “There’s nothing repetitive about running on trails—your tempo varies, stride varies, strike varies. The diversity of running surfaces can help eliminate the incredibly repetitive nature of running, add strength, and decrease risk of injury.”

RELATED: The Importance Of Varying Your Running Surfaces

Using More Than One Pair Of Running Shoes

Switching up your shoes is another measure that you can take to offer your legs and feet some variety. “Some athletes will buy three pairs of the same shoe and alternate through an older, middle and a newer pair,” Wittenberg says. “Others will choose a pair with a lower heel drop that mimics barefoot running a bit more and then have a pair with more support for long-distance training.”

RELATED: How Often Should I Replace My Running Shoes?

The Takeaway

The good news is that many triathletes are already taking these measures, perhaps more with comfort and enjoyment in mind, rather than injury prevention. Regardless of the motives, adding a bit of variety in your life—whether it be via terrain or footwear—will do your body good over many miles.

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