Singaporeans love to run. In 2018 itself, there will be at least 50 fully-packed running events taking place on the island. It is no surprise, then, that Singapore’s National Sports Participation Survey ranked running as the number one sporting activity in our country. These findings may sound like good news to a country trying to breed a healthier nation, but according to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School and the National Running Center at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, every year 30 – 75% of regular runners suffer foot and ankle injuries due to the sport. These injuries can be caused by the lack of stretching, incorrect running techniques, rapidly changing the intensity of training, biomechanical misalignment or simply incorrect footwear. Fortunately, the frequency of these injuries can be greatly reduced by following the 5 precautionary tips we have for you.
#01 Choose appropriate footwear for running
Not all sports shoes are designed for running or jogging. There are specific characteristics to look out for in a shoe before they can be considered running shoes. To learn how to properly assess the suitability of a pair of sneakers for running, Victoria Cheng, a Fitness Influencer in Singapore, decided to seek Georgina Callaghan-Tay, a Podiatrist at East Coast Podiatry Centre for her professional opinion. You may watch the video here:
#02 Use Prescription Orthotics
Besides supporting a runner’s feet with appropriate footwear, Podiatrist prescribed Orthotics or Shoe Insoles will further reduce the occurrence of injury for the runner. These devices are designed based on the runner’s foot type and gait pattern, serving to prevent joint damage and fix alignment issues in the runner’s lower extremity.
Prescription Orthotics can be divided into two broad categories:
Functional Orthotics support the foot structure and facilitate ideal gait patterns.
Accommodative Orthotics provide palliative relief for injury prone foot types such as flat feet.
Very often, runners only visit a podiatrist when they are already injured or if they are experiencing worsening pain. Prevention is better than cure. It would be prudent for runners to obtain and use prescription orthotics before they start intensifying their running regimes. To learn more about Orthotics, you may watch the following video by Georgina:
#03 Use Correct Running Techniques
One common mistake runners often make, is to pivot on their forefoot without allowing the rear foot to come down. When a runner lands on the forefoot, all the weight distribution is on the front of the foot. To redistribute the pressure, the rear foot will need to descend all the way down after the forefoot lands. If forefoot pivots without a proper rear foot land, the runner risk injuries such as sesamoiditis and second metatarsal overload which can lead to conditions such as bunions. In the video below, Georgina analyses the different running techniques of a runner and elaborates on the pros and cons of each style:
#04 Sports Taping
The ankle is one of the most vulnerable and commonly injured regions of the body. To protect it from injury during a run, the application of sports tape by a qualified Podiatrist is a good idea. Sports Taping will help the ankle stay within a healthy range of motion during a run and prevent excessive ankle activity that may lead to a sprained ankle. With the thickness and elasticity of the tape akin to human skin, sports taping provides dynamic support that protects both joint and muscle.
Professionally applied sports tape can stay fastened even after an intense workout and is relatively waterproof. Users are able to keep the tape on during wet activities such as swimming or showering and just dry it off for continued usage. Once applied, sports tape can be kept on the body from 4 to 5 days, allowing constant therapeutic benefits to the taped area until the tape is removed. Runners may also consider getting their knees taped for extra protection during a run.
#05 Use Correct Stretching Techniques
Runners must pay particular attention to their foot and ankle in their warm-up and stretch routine before a run. The foot and ankle are the foundations of any form of physical activity and they require proper stretching to help prevent injuries.
3 important lower limb stretches all runners should incorporate into their routine:
Arch stretching – Sit in a chair, plant one foot on the ground keeping it perpendicular and bring the other leg over the knee of the planted leg to form a right angle. Pull the toes of the non-planted foot backwards to feel a stretch in the arch of the foot. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds before replicating these steps, this time, with other foot.
Toe stretching – Push against the wall with one foot behind the other. Roll up a small hand towel until it is slightly thicker than your fist and place it below the toes of your back foot. Lean forward towards the wall to give your toes a good stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds before switching the towel to the other foot.
Calf stretching – Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched and wrap a towel around one of your feet. Using your arms, pull back the ends of the towel and you should feel a stretch in your calf. Hold this for 30 seconds before repeating this stretch on the other foot.
Even with these 5 tips, injuries and accidents will still occur. The chance of these mishaps occurring, however, will be greatly reduced if the runner is compliant with what has been advised.
If you are a runner who suffers from pain and discomfort in your lower extremities after a run, these solutions may not be adequate to address your issues. To get back into form, you may need to see a Podiatrist to diagnose and treat your injury.
Author: Dr. Michael Lai, Principal Podiatrist at East Coast Podiatry (Singapore)