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Injuries and Minimalist Running

by vffrunner » on Apr 02, 2010 6

Today we’re going to talk about that dark topic of injuries. Injuries are a part of nearly every long distance runner’s history or their future. A quick Google search indicates that anywhere from 40-70% of runners are injured at some point during their running career. Does that make you want to stop running? Well, it shouldn’t. Injuries might be common, but they are a) avoidable and b) surmountable.

I’ve been injured a lot. A lot. I’m a bit overweight, have a family history of weak knees, and overall, I’m not shaped like a runner. I’m short, kind of squat, and curvy. So what can you do to minimize injuries and recover from them faster? Here are a few tips.

Increase Distance and Intensity Slowly

Conventional running wisdom is to add mileage at a rate of 10% per week. When you start running, this may be as little as a quarter of a mile each week. As you build distance of course, you can add more each week, but don’t fall prey to the temptation to eek out just a couple of extra miles when you’re just starting out.

The same rules apply for intensity. After your first successful 5 mile flat run, don’t go out the very next week and throw eight or nine hills into the mix. Start with one or two smaller hills instead. If you’re comfortable at running five miles at a 12 minute mile pace, don’t go out on your very next run and try to do five miles at 10 minute miles. Add a few quarter or half mile speed sessions to your next five mile run after you’ve warmed up sufficiently.

Don’t Run Through the Pain

We’ve al been there. You’re out on a run and something starts to hurt. Badly.¬†Sure, it might just be temporary. But it might not be. If something starts to hurt, STOP. Walk for a few minutes. Stretch a little bit. Then try to run again. Better? Ok then, keep going. No? Then stop. This is one of the main reasons why I always bring a cell phone and a couple of dollars with me on my runs.

I know very well the temptation of just continuing on. I have a little game I play with myself that’s so far kept me from injuring myself too badly (though as I’ll tell you about next week, I did dislocate my cuboid bone two months ago). If something hurts, I do the stop and stretch game. After that I start running again. I give myself 20 steps. If I’m still hurting (and it’s not just muscle soreness from a hard run) after 20 steps, then it’s time to stop and either walk home, call for a ride, or get on a bus.

Assess and Treat Quickly

If you’ve hurt something on a run, it’s important to treat the injury as quickly as possible. Keeping an ice cup in your freezer is a great idea. You can buy a freezable ice cup (usually with carrying case) from most running stores. Ice massage is a great way of treating an injury. Just seven minutes of ice massage can do as much or more as 15 minutes with an ice pack. Practice good RICE techniques (REST-ICE-COMPRESSION-ELEVATION). If you wake up the next day and the pain is gone, then it probably wasn’t anything major and you can continue on with your training program. However, if you wake up and the pain’s still there, then keep practicing RICE and don’t run for one week. If the pain is still there after three days, it’s time to call a professional.

Know When to Call In the Professionals

If you’ve been hurting for a couple of days and don’t seem to be getting any better, it’s time to call a professional. If you have the ability, pick a physical therapist or a sports medicine doctor over a general practitioner. Why? Because in my experience, general practitioners are much more likely to tell you to stop running than to actually treat the root cause of the problem. Sports medicine doctors are better, but my money has always been on physical therapists. A physical therapist’s job is to get you back doing what you were doing before. If there’s a way to get you back running, a good PT is going to find it. Not only that, but a good PT will help you figure out why you hurt yourself in the first place. When I dislocated my cuboid, the PT was able to not only¬†guide it back into place, but also to give me tips and exercises to fix the issue that caused the dislocation (weak hips and balance issues). Had I just gone to a general practitioner, he or she probably would have just relocated the bone and sent me on my way.

Next Week: Supporting minimalist running with cross training and strength training

Submitted Comments

  1. Blake Barker says:

    Aside from physical therapists, DO's will do the same. They are trained to treat and prevent as opposed to throwing pills and negative comments your way.

  2. Duke says:

    I am an amateur bodybuilder, and I have been running in my “spidys” (my five fingers) on a treadmill for two months. I got them to wear in the gym for my pre-workout cardio. It is my first pair and I understood that I would have to carefully ease into barefoot running. I average between 1.5 to 2 miles a day on the treadmill, and aside from a little soreness in my calves and feet, have not had a problem. Matter of fact, my legs felt great! Well, I went for my first run today on asphalt. I did not notice anything out of the ordinary until I hit 1.5 miles. All of a sudden I experienced severe pain deep in the center of my right foot and could run no further. I am hoping that I just tweaked something in my foot, but I am afraid I might have a stress fracture. Has anyone out there experienced this or can shed some light on the subject???

  3. Mel says:

    Duke – I have the same problem. Right foot, top/middle of foot — I have been nursing it now for 2 weeks & little improvement. How did you make out with your injury & recovery time? My marathon is in 2 1/2 months & I’m starting to panic!

  4. Mike says:

    I don’t see that you ever received a reply but I’m dealing with the same thing now. (ran a little too far in my VFFs last sunday.) Can you give me an update of what your injury was and how long your recovery was?

  5. Duke says:

    I injured my right foot wearing my KSOs on pavement. I made it approximately 1.5 miles before the pain was too great to continue. I probably should have used a little more sense. At a lean 205 lbs. I think I’m a little too heavy to be going for distance in KSOs on pavement. I finally went to the E.R., but my X-rays were negative. I was in a walking boot for maybe six weeks. The E.R. doc was clueless. When I finally made it to the podiatrist, she said it might have been a pinched nerve. I gave the VFFs a rest until May. Then I ordered some Komodos and went back to cross country. I have a lab and she gets upset when I don’t take her along. It has been great. My legs are stronger than ever. I love the Komodos, but I’m looking at getting Bikilas. I will only run with VFFs cross country. If I’m running on the road, I just stick with my Ascics.

  6. Taylor says:

    Nah dude you got a cuboid problem. Everyone gets em when startin out runnin no heels. I can feel mine right now, just remember to start slow, and switch to regular shoes after about a half a mile until you gradually build up. And run on the grass for foot’s sake. Food for thought: we were taught to walk/ run in shoes with heels since infants and now at 23, i am switching to shoes with no heels. 23 years in i think may take more than a year or two to adjust much less run a marathon. check this PDF article out i just found tonight….

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