Health Update- Running and Physical Therapy

By: Dr. Laura Wenger, PT, DPT, OCS

Running season is upon us! We here at Tomsic PT are keeping up with the latest races more in the form of sponsorship these days. We had the privilege of sponsoring the Narrow Gauge 10 Mile race over Memorial Day Weekend and had a blast answering questions, stretching out, and taping runners following the race. We were also excited to see our former co-owner, Dave Rakita, running this race for the 39th time! Now, if that isn’t inspirational, I don’t know what is. We are looking forward to the continued running season and our upcoming sponsorship of the Durango Double Trail and Road Half Marathons on October 8th and 9th. If you are running or spectating, make sure you keep an eye out for our booth as we will be setting up shop right behind our clinic on the river trail.

Narrow Gauge 10k- 1
Narro Gauge 10k- 2

Running season is exciting but, unfortunately for some, picking up the pace of mileage and speed comes with aches and pains. Research has estimated that 20 to 80% of runners get injured each year, which is a large amount of people when you consider that over 15 million people are running each year in the US.1 As physical therapists, we get really excited about watching people move, and I especially love to do treadmill running analysis. Because of the large amount of runners that are injured each year, we undoubtedly see many folks in the clinic who benefit from running assessments. Oftentimes, we will suggest that people alter the way that their foot strikes the floor with each stride as a way to decrease biomechanical stresses placed on their ankles, knees, hips, and spine. A recent study sought to find out whether or not retraining footstrike patterns actually does reduce knee pain, improves biomechanical measures, and/or influences the risk of ankle injuries.1

The researchers completed training subjects for eight sessions over two weeks with a focus on switching their footstrike pattern from a rearfoot strike, where the heel hits first, to a forefoot strike, where the mid-foot hits first.1 They compared the group of trained subjects to another group of runners who received no training, but continued their running program.1 The researchers found a number of positive effects in the training group, including:

  • Significantly reduced knee pain1
  • Improved biomechanics at the knee with reduced collapsing inward of the knee1
  • Improved ankle range of motion consistent with the forefoot strike pattern1

What’s great about this study is that the effects of the training not only were noticeable directly after the two-weeks training period but also further out at a one-month follow-up.1 What that tell us is that, when we re-train a person on the treadmill to alter their footstrike patterns, the effects can continue well beyond our treatment which is the ultimate goal of teaching the body new and more effective ways to move. If you are a runner and are experiencing an injury or looking for ways to prevent injury, call us to schedule an evaluative appointment for a running analysis with one of our specialized physical therapists.

  1. Roper JL, Harding EM, Doerfler D, Dexter JG, Kravitz L, Dufek JS, Mermier CM. The effects of gait retraining in runners with patellofemoral pain: A randomized trial. Clinical Biomechanics. 2016(35):14-22.