- Tips to make running training painless
- Best examples of dynamic stretching warm-up exercises
- How to choose the right running socks
- How to choose the right running shoes
- Why shortening your strides is effective in reducing pain
Tips to Make Your Running Training Painless
Running can be a rewarding sport or an enjoyable physical activity. But it’s not always rainbows and butterflies as runners may also encounter aches, stiffness, and injuries that may make them stop or quit.
If you’re a runner and you feel like stopping or quitting due to pain, remember that you’ll gain nothing at the finish line if you let the pain get the best of you. The key here is to eliminate the bad pain and run with good pain. Here are tips on how to make your running training painless:
Warm Up Before Running
This is probably one of the most common yet the most overlooked reminders for professional runners: warm-up before running to prevent injuries and improve running performance. Many studies have already proven that warming up can condition the body to execute physical activities more efficiently, prolong endurance, and lessen the risk of injury.
One of the most effective types of warm-ups for athletes is dynamic stretching. A study published in the US National Library of Medicine aimed to “compare the effects of static vs. dynamic stretching (DS) on explosive performances and repeated sprint ability (RSA) after a 24-hour delay” and found out that dynamic stretching can offer positive effects on explosive sprint performances in 24 hours. This means that dynamic stretching can lessen running pain and the risk of injuries, improve the body’s range of motion, and increase muscle strength.
To warm up using dynamic stretches, do stretches with controlled movements through the active range of motion for each joint. This will activate your muscles and their power. Here are some examples of dynamic stretches:
- Squats – Stand straight with your feet slightly wider than the width of your hip. Then, lower the body into a squatting position and make sure to squeeze the muscles in your butt.
- Arm Circles – Stand straight, hold your arms out to your sides (at the height of the shoulders), then move your arms in a circular motion.
- Hip Circles – Stand with one leg and raise the other leg to the side. Move the free leg into a circular motion. Use a wall to support your body if needed.
- Leg Swings – Stand straight and lift one of your legs. Swing the free leg forward and backward while keeping the knee straight and bent. Use a wall to support your body if needed.
- Walking Lunges – Step forward using one leg while making sure that the knee does not reach past the ankle. Step forward again to return to the original standing position, and repeat the process with the opposite leg.
- Upper-Body Twist – Stand straight with your feet slightly wider than the width of your hip. Raise your arms to the height of your shoulders, then rotate your upper body from side to side. Prevent the torso from moving.
Don’t put immediate and too much pressure on your feet and lower body when you start running. This wrong method can easily consume energy, exhaust your feet, and even cause injuries. Always start easy for the first few minutes—like you’re testing the waters. Then, move on to your usual pace and speed once you get used to the surface and environment.
Master Forefoot Running
Forefoot running requires the runner to use the part of the foot that first strikes or gets in contact with the surface as the lead leg when running. The said part refers to the ball of the foot. Forefoot running is believed to be the best method to run faster and more efficiently and to prevent running injuries like knee pain and Achilles tendinopathies, which are two of the most common complaints among runners.
Many studies have already proven the effectiveness of forefoot running in relieving stress in various parts of the lower body, especially toes, feet, and knees. A study about forefoot running published in the US National Library of Medicine found that there are “differences in patellofemoral loading and knee frontal plane moment between [athletes] using the forefoot strike (FFS) and rearfoot strike (RFS). FFS exhibits both lower patellofemoral stress and knees frontal plane moment than RFS, which may reduce the risk of running-related knee injuries. On the other hand, a parallel increase in ankle plantar flexor and Achilles tendon loading may increase the risk for ankle and foot injuries.”
Improve Your Muscle Strength and Growth
Running exhibits pressure on lower-body movements. Your body responds to these movements by offering shock absorption capabilities through your tendons, bones, ligaments, and joints. So, of course, it will hurt over time when your shock absorption capabilities wear out.
You can, however, prolong the shock absorption of your muscles by improving their strength and aiding natural growth. You can start doing this through strength training, a physical activity crafted to improve muscular strength by targeting a specific muscle or muscle group against external resistance.
“The main determinants of distance running performance include V̇O2max, lactate threshold, and running economy. The conventional way to achieve improvements in these areas is through endurance training due to the principle of training specificity. Some physiologists believe that the addition of resistance training is beneficial to distance running in the form of injury prevention and preparing runners for pace surge and sprint finishes,” said a study conducted by sports medicine experts.
Wear the Right Socks
The right and most comfortable socks from your wardrobe can prevent blisters and promote pain-free running. Blisters are often caused by friction between your shoes or socks and your toes or feet. You need the right socks that won’t cause too much rubbing as you run, preferably footwear made with materials that can control moisture.
How to Choose the Right Running Socks
Your choice of socks matters in training and competitions. For reference, here are ways to choose the right socks to make running painless:
- Find socks made with moisture-wicking materials that can lessen sweat production, such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester—synthetic fibers. Avoid cotton at all costs as it gets abrasive when wet, promoting rubbing.
- Find the right balance between cushion and warmth based on weather conditions. Look for socks with cushions that can reduce impact to help prevent injuries and keep your feet comfortable.
- Consider wearing compression socks to decrease the effort your legs contribute to your running power. Compression socks also encourage blood flow and improve circulation, so they can aid the cushions in reducing impact.
- Select socks with the best arch support based on the structure of your feet. They can provide extra power and help absorb shock at the arches of your feet.
- Pick socks with traction control so they will stay on regardless of your running speed and the condition of the surface (rough or slippery).
Wear the Right Shoes
The right shoes, like the right socks, are also crucial in preventing soreness and injuries. After all, it’s the direct barrier between the surface and your feet. The right running shoes based on your foot structure, the running surface, and the type of activity you wish to participate in can prevent injuries and foot pain.
In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, various relevant studies confirmed that the right shoes with special features for running have beneficial effects on athletic performance and running injury. Here are the benefits as listed in the conclusion:
- Increasing the forefoot bending stiffness of running at the optimal range can benefit performance-related variables;
- Softer midsoles can reduce impact forces and loading rates;
- Thicker midsoles can provide remarkable cushioning effects and attenuate shock during impacts but may decrease plantar sensations at touchdown; and
- Minimalist shoes would improve running performance-related including economy and build the cross-sectional area and stiffness of Achilles tendon, but also induce greater loading of the ankle, metatarsophalangeal joint, and Achilles tendon compared with the conventional shoes.
How to Choose the Right Running Shoes
The right running shoes have multiple benefits that affect performance, may it be about preventing pain and injury or increasing running speed and power. That’s why it’s important to always choose the right shoes for every training and competition. For reference, here are ways to choose the right shoes to make running painless:
- Consider the surface you intend to run in and decide whether to wear road-running, trail-running, or cross-training shoes.
- Make sure it fits! This is a no-brainer, but don’t wear shoes that are too loose or too tight. Additionally, don’t wear new running shoes for special training or competition as the size won’t easily adjust to your feet on first wear.
- Consider the cushioning or support features. Decide whether or not you need a thick material under the midsole based on your movements.
- Decide if you want to support your gait. Choose running shoes that can accommodate the type of your gait or pattern of running: neutral, overpronation, underpronation.
- Check for other basic and advanced running-specific features, such as additional arch support, anti-blister, anti-pronation, and more.
Run With Shorter Strides
Contrary to popular belief, modifying your strides to improve your running performance and prevent pain or injury isn’t about speed. It’s about the intensity of how your heels strike. Shortening your stride increases the rate of your stride. It keeps your body centered over your legs—an effective way of distributing force more evenly on the foot and joints, preventing running soreness and injuries.
“Despite procedural differences among studies, an increased stride rate (reduced stride length) appears to reduce the magnitude of several key biomechanical factors associated with running injuries,” confirmed a study published in Sports Health – SAGE Journals in 2014.
Despite the numerous advantages of shortening your strides while running, also take note that this method requires more oxygen than keeping your normal stride rate. As such, make sure to incorporate effective breathing techniques when you do this method.
Get Used To Various Surfaces
As an amateur or professional runner, make sure to run on diverse surfaces to improve your performance and adjust leg stiffness. Let your feet feel how it’s like to run on trails, sidewalks, mountains, sand, grass, and other types of surfaces, and aim to reduce the pounding on your legs as you get yourself used to every type of surface you’ll encounter. Think of it as resistance training.
A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy revealed that instability resistance training (IRT) or resistance training that involves the use of unstable surfaces when running and performing exercises are effective in improving muscle strength and preventing injuries or soreness.
“Some of the characteristics of IRT exercises that are not conducive to optimal strength or power training for athletes may be favorable for rehabilitation. The instability‐induced deficits in force compared to traditional stable RT exercises, which dampen the strength training stimuli in trained individuals, can be of sufficient intensity for a recuperating muscle,” confirmed the study.
Find The Culprit Causing Pain
Sometimes, runners feel sudden pain and stiffness that they’ve never encountered before. The pain may be due to various changes in one’s running routine, gear, methods, or movements. It could be caused by one or more factors. Regardless, you need to find the culprit causing the pain and avoid it on your next run.
Take a look at your new or old shoes. You may still be adjusting to the size and material of your new shoes or your old shoes are already worn out and causing you all sorts of pain. Check your running gear; is your new running gear hindering your movements? Take a look at the surface; are you still not getting used to hard surfaces? Know what’s causing the pain, and see if you can find solutions or alternatives that can relieve or eliminate the pain.
The truth is running won’t always be painless, just like any other endurance sport that requires time, effort, and determination. Success in sports always comes with pain—it’s all part of the process. No successful athlete succeeds without pain.
However, don’t always subject yourself to painful running if you have remedies, solutions, and alternatives in front of you—starting with our tips for painless running. Running doesn’t always have to be painless, but you should at least make yourself comfortable and determined to improve your running performance and reach the finish line.