To figure out what these professionals don’t want you to do before making an appointment, Runner’s World asked two chiropractors who specialize in running about what common training flaws are leading to patients ending up in their offices over and over again.
DON’T buy shoes for looks
While studies go back and forth on whether or not specific types of running shoes actually lead to injury, it’s still a good idea to opt for a proper fit over a pair of kicks that look cool or you got for cheap. Ian Nurse, D.C., founder of Wellness in Motion Boston and a sub-2:30 marathoner, believes that a lot of running injuries can start from not having the right shoes on your feet.
Nurse recommends going to a run specialty store and having someone watch your gait outside or on the treadmill. This will give someone at the store the ability to find a range of shoes that might work best for your specific running/walking mechanics. From there, you can go by what feels the best when you’re running. (You can find a nearby running store by checking out our Store Finder.)
RELATED: How to Buy the Right Running Shoes
Nurse said he also asks his patients if there has been a change in running shoes from one style to another. For example, switching to a zero-drop shoe from a normal shoe, without easing into them, may increase your risk of injury. Like a fitter at a running store, a sports chiropractor like Nurse may even look at your running gait in the office to diagnose imbalances in your foot’s motion mechanics.
“The whole biomechanics starts in your foot,” Nurse said. “We all have different foot strikes. If it hits the ground in a certain way, the shoe has to support that. If you are a forefoot striker, rearfoot striker, overpronator, or underpronator, all of those different types of foot strikes can lend itself to different running injuries.”
DON’T do static stretching before a run
Holding a static stretch for longer than 10 seconds can take away from your explosive muscular power before a run, according to Derek Vinge, D.C. at Fit Chiropractic & Sports Therapy in Courtenay, British Columbia. One study even showed that stretching cold muscles before a tough 3K left individuals starting their runs slower and at a greater perceived effort. And when your muscles aren’t signaling properly, it can lead to small injuries turning into larger problems over time.
You are better off with a series of dynamic stretches—like lunges and squats—to get the blood flowing in the body. (This 2-minute warmup should do the trick.) The benefits will be noticeable if you add just five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching before you hit the roads or trails.
“I forget to do a dynamic stretch as well, and I think maybe it is a time thing where you tell yourself ‘I’ll do this later. I’ll deal with it later,’” Vinge said. “If you do some activation and some dynamic warmups, you are going to be a stronger, faster runner.”
DON’T overdo it on foam rollers
Foam rolling and other ways to work out a knot or refresh your legs can be a good thing—in moderation. But less sometimes is actually more, according to Nurse.
“I see a lot of people who tend to go overboard on that,” Nurse said. “They do so much foam rolling on their IT band and/or their quads, and then they are in even more pain. It’s more of like a finesse, where you are trying to get blood flow into the area, but you aren’t trying to beat up the area so badly that you are causing more damage.”
If you’re working out on a foam roller and something continues to hurt or gets worse, stop. Overdoing a problem spot may inflame it more. If you’re feeling relatively good, Nurse suggests doing some light work on the foam roller after a run to hit any problem areas for one to two minutes.
DON’T clam up when you get into the office
You shouldn’t arrive to an office visit with pages and pages of notes from WebMD. But you shouldn’t be silent and just think a sports chiropractor has all the answers just by looking at you.
Going into an appointment, think about what has been consistently driving you crazy on a run—a stiff neck, a cranky left ankle—as that will allow a doc to focus on what’s really bothering you.
“Runners know their bodies a lot better than a lot of people,” Nurse said. “As we run we are constantly kind of checking in on different body parts, and people really are able to recognize what is wrong and they can tell if their gait is altered and what is hanging them up. The information I get from my patients helps me a lot.”
DON’T forget to see someone if you need it
With training goals and miles to complete, runners often don’t admit when there is something wrong. It’s almost a badge of honor to stay off the table for long periods of time.
But Vinge thinks there’s more to what he does than fixing injuries. Once an underlying issue is taken care of, you can teach your body to perform at a higher level than you thought was possible.
“After they start to get better, then we can work on other issues to get some more performance out of them,” said Vinge. “If you’ve never been looked at, then you have no idea what’s going wrong.”