5 WAYS TO PROTECT JOINTS
SHORTEN YOUR STRIDE
‘An increase in stride rate by five to 10 per cent can reduce patellofemoral joint load by up to 20 per cent,’ says Willy. Stride rates are individual, but it’s recommended to aim for 160-190 steps per minute. Be careful not to change how your foot hits the ground. Shifting your foot strike can change the load on your Achilles tendon.
CHECK YOUR MECHANICS
Willy says it’s a good idea to have your running form evaluated if you suffer from joint pain – or want to prevent it. A physio can detect issues such as hip adduction and overstriding – and instruct you on how to correct them. In a study, Willy found that runners with knee pain who did eight gait-retraining sessions had less knee pain when reevaluated months later.
WATCH YOUR WEIGHT
Runners often complain of more joint pains as they age and one reason is weight gain. Paul Devita, director of the Biomechanics Laboratory at East Carolina University, US, has conducted research that links excess weight with increased knee load – and injury risk – in runners. ‘Many of us are too heavy for our joints,’ says Spain.
REPLACE WORN SHOES
The verdict is still out on what footwear is best for reducing joint load. You need to find out what works best for you. When you get a new pair, it’s key to break them in with a few short runs before going long in them. ‘The exposure to a new shoe after being in an old one could be a risk factor for injury,’ says Paquette.
MIX IT UP
Changing where and how loads are placed on joints may keep injuries at bay. ‘Runners who do the same thing every day are more at risk,’ says Willy. ‘Change the surface, your route and tempo, and cross-train. The more variable your movements, the less you stress your tissues.’