We have all seen it and we have all done it. No matter how much you may try to avoid it, for some reason it keeps coming back to you. You may then go and search online for more information but, there you are again, back scratching your head about it. So what do we do next? Usually we will go to our social networks online and ask or maybe go up to a co-worker or exercise buddy and ask them. And then you realize you are back, chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole and are no more certain than when you started.
I’m talking about the major misinformation you have been told about running. So let us try and clear things up here and see what you have been told.
#1. Running causes arthritis and damages your knees.
How many times have you had knee pain after running? Ever had a running partner whose knees always seemed to hurt during.after running? The logical conclusion has typically been, “well, running is causing the pain, so running must be bad for your knees.” But that simply is not the case. There are runners who run well into their 80’s and 90’s and never seem to want to stop running. The oldest patient I have had the privilege of helping was 73 and her knees were never a problem. In fact, my colleagues at the JOSPT researched this exact issue and found that 3.5% of recreational runners will develop osteoarthritis and 13.3% of competitive runners will develop osteoarthritis.
But the more interesting finding was 10.2% of non-runners will develop osteoarthritis by just living a sedentary lifestyle. Meaning if you were worried about the health of your knees and had to choose between running and not running, you should actually choose to run to maintain healthy knees. Further, the JOSPT team found running helped keep your hips healthy as well, not to forget your overall general health too.
#2. High body weight leads to greater chance of injury in running.
Have you ever thought, “I weigh too much” or “I’m not thin enough to run?” Well, lets start by saying body weight, BMI, body fat percentage, etc. are dramatically inaccurate ways to measure your fitness and health. Each person’s body composition depends on what kind of activity you do. So, for instance, linemen in the NFL can weigh 300 lbs. and ballet dancers can weigh as little as 95 lbs.
Both would be considered overweight and underweight respectively, but would you say either is not functioning at a high level? The same would be true for you and your body. I always recommend to my patients that they throw away the scale and instead rely on how your clothes are fitting you. With that being said, a study was done by the JOSPT looking at people who were categorized as “normal-weight, overweight, and obese” and knee related running injuries. Now, what would you think they found? Would you guess, the higher the body weight, i.e. trending “obese,” would lead to knee injuries? If you said yes, then I’m sorry but you are incorrect. After looking at 571 runners, those classified as “obese” were found to be less likely to have knee injuries by 13% when compared to “normal-weight” runners. Actually, the research and my own clinical experience tends to show that “normal-weight” and “underweight” runners are more likely to have knee injuries. The reasons for that are many and complex but it often relates to technique and poor form when running. The runners I see in my clinic who tend to be higher in weight often develop lower leg injuries (think plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinopathy). Usually this is related to poor shoe fit and a poor training routine/program. Read my blog on proper shoe fit for more information and reach out if you have any questions.
#3. Distance running barefoot will lead to injury
Do you remember when barefoot/forefoot running became a thing? I can remember seeing people give it a shot, then the big shoe companies caught on to the trend and you could find barefoot shoes with 0 mm drops all over the place. Then people started getting injured and they started getting injured fast. The word around the running block was the shoes were to blame and the pendulum swung dramatically back to heel strike running.
Well, the injuries that occurred were actually due to switching up your running style way too quickly, without building up the necessary leg support. But running with a forefoot strike pattern is actually faster and safer if done properly. Think about it. If you wanted to stop moving forward, you would “dig in your heels,” right? You instinctively know to plant your heels to help you stop (think Fred Flinstone here).
So why would you want to be doing that when you’re running and trying to go forward? That’s basically what you're doing when you heel strike run, and most people traditionally run with a heel strike. This is mainly because of the type of shoes you’ve been sold and read my other BLOG about shoes for some help. But if you were to take off your shoes and run barefoot, your body switches to a forefoot strike without you even thinking about it. Don’t believe me? Give it a shot. Head outdoors to a grassy patch of land and try running barefoot. So barefoot running actually helps you run faster, you just gotta do it the right way and train for it the right way.
What misinformation have you been told about running? Did you receive bad information? Have you been given good information? Share with what you’ve heard or tried and comment below.