injury prevention, physio, running

Minimizing Risk of Running Injuries February Blog Series #2: Intrinsic Factors.


The second cause of running injury is: Intrinsic (or Individual) factors.

There are some individual characteristics about your body and injury history that you can’t change, but we will focus here on the ones you can control or influence.

1. Running biomechanics:

A high-evidence study in 2019 found that no biomechanical risk factors have been associated with the development of running injuries (Ceyssens, Vanelderen, Barton, Malliaras, & Dingenen, 2019). This means there is no optimal running technique or cadence (number of steps per minute) that can prevent injuries from happening. If you don’t have any pain or discomfort while running, there is no need to change your running cadence or technique (Schubert, Kempf, & Heiderscheit, 2014).

However, if you have any pain or body discomfort, increasing your cadence is probably the most powerful tool in tweaking your running technique to help alleviate pain and continue to train for your race. Increasing cadence by 10% can help decrease the stress on your plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and increases pain-free running distance in cases of runner’s knee. (Bramah, Preece, Gill, & Herrington, 2019; Gerrard & Bonanno, 2018).

Running biomechanics changes should be individualized to the person’s natural stride, their injury and training and race goals. It is best to get your running gait assessed by a professional to know what changes might be the most beneficial for you at this moment, especially since any change increases your injury risk (refer to load v.s. capacity graph in the post from last week on Training Errors).

Changing foot-strike from heel-strike to mid-foot strike tends to be associated with higher running cadence, but is not as effective by itself to help with running injuries as increasing your cadence (Joseph Hamill Allison H.Gruber, 2017).

2. Tissue strength:

Having sustained a previous running injury puts you at greater risk of another injury (Mohseni et al., 2019). When you have pain in a certain area, you will naturally try to avoid loading this area. Therefore, this will decrease the capacity of this body part (refer again to post from last week’s load v.s. capacity graph). It is important to make sure to safely and progressively reload the injured body part after the resolution of symptoms to avoid having long-term tissue fragility.

If you are now training for a race or planning to do so and you had a previous injury, it is a great idea to see a physiotherapist right now to get an individualized assessment and exercises to ensure you regain as close to 100% capacity as possible in your injured tissues before you prepare to increase running mileage.

This will help minimize the chance of recurrent or different(from loading other areas to compensate) running injuries.

Tune in next week for discussion on the last factor: Extrinsic Factors. 

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