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7 Secrets to Running Without Injuries from Head to Toe

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in April of 2019. For the original video go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wByGAdkV44

Bob: Hi folks, I’m Bob Schrupp, physical therapist.


Brad: Brad Heineck, physical therapist.


Bob: I think we are well qualified to talk about this one, Brad. 7 secrets to running without injuries from head to toe. Both Brad and I, are well into our 50’s, unfortunately, and yet we are still running. We’ve dealt with injuries over the years and we’ve figure out what works and what doesn’t work.


Brad: And we are going to help you out, whether you’re just starting or getting into it or your body’s changing, after you hit 50s, you’re wondering why things are changing and we can help you out.


Bob: Little clue, it’s not for the good either. It’s not changing for the good.


Brad: So, Bob, it’s springtime right here, right now, it’s beautiful. We came off of a beautiful April.


Bob: We’re about to have a snowstorm.


Brad: Right, but it was nice over the weekend. You were golfing and I did go running. I started running when I was in my late 20s, so I have about 30 years in consistent running. I really still enjoy it, but I have run into injuries. A lot of them over the years. From calf muscles to groin to hip abductor muscles to hamstrings.


Bob: Yeah, didn’t you just have a hamstring injury?


Brad: Yes, I just dealt with a hamstring injury. I feel pretty comfortable now taking care of it so I can get back at it, because it can be really a psychological issue if you’re a runner and you have an injury and you really want to get back out there. Or if you want to start running and you want to learn how you can run without hurting yourself. You have people who say, “Why are you running? You’re just going to hurt your body; you’re going to bang up your knees. You’re never going to last.”


Bob: I remember, my brother, he picked up running at one point. He just went out without stretching and tore his calf muscle. That was it!


Brad: Right. Let’s talk about the first thing. I’ve got 7 things here. You know, Bob, how I am about seven.


Bob: You love seven.


Brad: Seven is complete, Bob.


Bob: Seven is heaven.


Brad: There you go. So, number one, shoes. Let’s start out with shoes. These are not necessarily in order of importance but they are all important. The type of shoe you’re going to pick out is going to vary depending on how you run. Most people that start out are heel strikers, where they go heel-toe strike. You’re probably a heel-toe striker. You might be a forefoot runner. My wife’s a natural forefoot runner without even training. If you’re a heel-toe striker, like most people, then it gets a little complicated depending on if you have a high arch, a medium arch or you’re flat-footed. You want to make sure you get the shoe that fits you. I don’t have time here to go through that whole thing, because that takes a lot of time.


Bob: We’ve had videos on this. You may want to check out those, because that’s a whole video, which shoe is correct for your type of foot.


Brad: Right, so get the right shoe. If you want to see that video, just check out How to Choose Proper Running or Walking Shoes.


Bob: I think the point that we are trying to make today, Brad, is that you need to spend the time to get the right shoe. It’ll make all the difference. I mean, you can run into problems very quickly.


Brad: Yes, so, take some time and it’s probably likely that you’ll get a pair of shoes and they might not be the right ones, but then your second pair will be. Runners have all kinds of stories about shoes.


Bob: Well, generally, what you do as a runner, once you find one that works, I buy a bunch of them and when I go back in I ask what the latest one on that kind is. They change it but they keep it fairly similar.


Brad: Anyways, we don’t want to discourage them about the shoe issue. If you are a forefoot runner, that’s a different story. I’ll get into that later. Number two, warm-up. There’s some controversy about warm-up. There’s been some studies in the last few years where warm-up is not necessary, why do you warm-up, it doesn’t do anything anyways. I personally, disagree with that.


Bob: I do too. As you get older, I definitely disagree with that.


Brad: As far as warm-ups, I don’t personally go through an extensive warm-up before I run because I’m not going out sprinting. I usually start out walking, maybe around the block.


Bob: That’s what I do too.


Brad: Yeah, maybe about a block and then I go to a jog and as my body feels warmed up, I will start running.


Bob: I do stretch before too. Which is the next one.


Brad: Sure. That’s kind of an individual thing, I think. In wintertime, or if I’ve got the elliptical in my house, that’s a really good way for me to warm-up.


Bob: It gets all the body parts going.


Brad: Exactly. Jumping jacks is a really nice way before you get running. You know, if you’re a sprinter, that’s a whole different story. We are talking about people who are going out jogging or running, that type of exercise. Number three, the stretch. Now a stretch is another thing that some people will do or will not do. I think the two major muscle groups that you really should pay attention to and stretch are the calf muscles and the hamstrings.


Bob: I agree.


Brad: They’re the most commonly injured muscles, in my opinion, with runners. So, I would do a warm-up, the jumping jacks, maybe some walking, and then do some stretching with your heel cords. You can just do a wall stretch, where you stretch like this. If you want to get something that’s more made for it and it really works well, what do we have here, Bob?

Bob: We have the ProStretch. I have to tell you a real quick story. So, I was on Reader’s Digest, so one lady was doing that against her car, that stretch. Another man thought she needed help pushing her car, so he came up and started helping. She asked him what he was doing, and he said, “Well, you need help pushing your car?” She says, “No, I’m just stretching. Ha-ha.” So anyway, this is the ProStretch. They sent us one of these and I was like, well, who cares about this? But actually, I use it every morning. It’s a great one to do because what’s nice about it, it actually stretches the toes too. Which helps prevent plantar fasciitis. I get up on it like this, Brad, and I stretch like this and I rock it back and forth. It works out really well and then you can actually pop it off that way because it sticks on you.


Brad: Sure. Wouldn’t be fun running with that. And then the hamstrings. If you’re a runner, I’m assuming you’re pretty able and have good balance. I like to just bring my foot up on a stair or an object like this and straighten the knee out and stretch. You can hold it for that 30 seconds, a couple three times.


Bob: Keep your back straight.


Brad: Yep. I don‘t like to do the whole 30 seconds. I like to just relax, pressure on, pressure off. I’ll do that like 5-10 times. Of course, on both legs. Make sure you stretch both legs on both of these. So those are the two primary groups we’re going to talk about. Then, let’s talk the more technicalities of running. Number four, strike placement. I mentioned forefoot versus heel strike and if this is new to you, when you walk, your heel hits first and you roll through your foot to your forefoot. When you run, you do the same thing if you’re a heel striker. That puts a lot more impact to your ankle, your knee, and your hip as well as your back.

Bob: Your heal hits and the force comes right up through the body, through your lower leg and into your leg.


Brad: That can be up to 10 times as much as your body weight if they put a force gage on there.


Bob: Both Brad and I have evolved from heel strikers to forefoot runners because it seems like it disperses the force more so when we run now, we’re hitting forefoot first. Taking more stress on the calf muscles now.


Brad: As well as the quads too.


Bob: But you’re taking less stress on the joints of the body that can’t handle it.


Brad: So, if you’re a heel striker and you want to convert to forefoot runner, don’t expect to do it within a week or two. It took me two seasons, two summers, before I could do it. I started getting strains in my calf muscles.


Bob: It’s a lot more strain on your calf muscles.


Brad: And I strained my hip abductor muscle too. So, I just kept at it and eventually I took a running course for physical therapy. They also said, you know, one to two seasons, it’s going to take you to convert from a heel striker to a forefoot runner.


Bob: There’s a book, The Pose Method. They go into great detail on how to convert to become a forefoot runner.


Brad: And the popular book that’s come out in the last few years, Born to Run, it's all about forefoot running as well. And that forefoot, I want to step back into shoes. If you’re a forefoot runner, it’s easier to pick out shoes. You usually pick out a minimalist. A real light shoe and you’re just striking on your forefoot, so you don’t need that cushion in the shoe. The arch support issue is not near as important.


Bob: I found, once I became a forefoot runner, I could run with my shoes longer. They lasted longer because I didn’t rely on the cushion as much so when the cushioning started going down. I didn’t care really.


Brad: Supposedly, your speed will greatly increase when you become a forefoot runner.


Bob: That didn’t happen to me. I thought it would, but it didn’t.


Brad: Number five, cadence, how often you strike.


Bob: Cadence means the number of foot strikes per minute.


Brad: The location where your foot touches the ground, now this is for more advanced runners, I used to think if I stretched out in front of me that I’m going to run faster and more efficiently but that's not the case.


Bob: I heard people say this at cross country meets all the time. They'd say he’s a good runner because he’s tall, he’s got those long legs.


Brad: Oh yeah, stretch it out.


Bob: The key is really to get a lot of foot strikes in a rapid succession.


Brad: To do that, your foot should not strike the ground, if you draw a vertical line over your hips, it should not land in front of that. It should be right below it so you’re pushing as opposed to going out and pulling and coming through and there’s some other biomechanics with the knee mechanics that reaching out in front of you can give you knee problems with hyperextension, etc. I started doing this, and I think my time is going to be faster.

Bob: I had a friend that was talking about this. He’s quite a good runner and he goes, “I’m running behind this older person and I can’t keep up with them. I’m watching them, it’s like, they’re striking their feet so often compared to what I was, so I started doing that and I pulled up to them." Give it a try. A higher rate.


Brad: Right, so, I think the books we’ve mentioned, The Pose Method and Born to Run are two good reference books that you could read if you’re wanting to step up you’re running. Reducing injuries as well as increase your speed. Number six is very simple, very basic. If you can run on a non-pavement or concrete surface, you know get on a trail or anything that’s grass or dirt or gravel. Any of that, takes off stress.


Bob: Number seven, you also want to watch the camber of the road . The road always has a slant, and if you always go down the same slant, you’re going to develop injuries. I know for safety-wise, you’re supposed to kind of always go against the traffic so you can see it coming. But, I actually go down one side and come back the same side so I’m varying the angles that my ankles and feett are dealing with.


Brad: Right, because the road does curve so the water runs off instead of into the center so that’s a good consideration.


Bob: If you’re on a trail that doesn’t have that consideration. Then you don’t have to worry about it. There’s lake trails and stuff like that.


Brad: Just watch out for rocks and roots so you don’t sprain your ankle.


Bob: Sounds good. Thanks.


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