Despite the frigid weather, runners are starting to gear up for a new season of 5Ks and marathons. And, according to a new study, many of them can avoid injuries with one little change in their technique—by simply landing lighter on their feet.
The researchers, who recently published their data in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, focused on “impact loading,” the force you create when your foot strikes ground. They tracked a carefully selected group of 249 female runners and evaluated them two years later. Over 140 of these runners had both serious (enough to require medical attention) and minor injuries. These women all struck the ground with their heels when they ran, which tends to cause higher impact.
The remainder of the group reported no injuries—and they all landed far more lightly when they ran, the scientists discovered. Describing one of the injury-free runners, lead author Irene Davis, PhD, visiting professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, told The New York Times, “When you watched her run, it was like seeing an insect running across water. It was beautiful.”
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So if you’re a bit more heavy-footed, simply focus on “a soft landing,” and try landing closer to the midfoot, suggests Davis. Also, practice upping your cadence (the steps per minute), which also helps lessen the impact.
Of course, there’s no dearth of advice out there on injury prevention, like improving your running posture and replacing your shoes every 500 miles. Your knees, ankles and feet can also best be protected with a little education, so consider making an appointment with a physical therapist if you’re prone to injury. You sure don’t want to waste those fabulous spring days nursing a bad ankle.