Preventing Overuse Injuries in Distance Runners: Assess your own Biomechanics


With the recent Sydney morning herald half marathon, the running season is in full swing and many of us have already entered the City to Surf and/or one of the events of the Sydney running festival with goals of personal bests or completing a certain distance. It’s an exciting time of year for the runner but also a time where we see a wave of running related injuries at the clinic, many of which can be prevented.

Acute Injuries do occur in runners, however overuse injuries are far more common. Every runner has heard of the common overuse injuries of Illiotibial band friction syndrome, patella femoral pain, plantar fasciitis and shin splints. All of which can bring weeks of hard training to an abrupt halt or even put making it to the start line under question.  The good news is there are several strategies to minimize the occurrence of these overuse injuries.

The biggest factors that contribute to overuse injuries are excessive increases in training load and poor biomechanics.

Any changes to frequency, intensity, type or time of training increases the load placed on the musculoskeletal system. It is very important to increase these training variables in such away to challenge the body enough so that it adapts however not so much that it causes injury. When we’ve registered for an event and set a goal time it’s very easy to get carried away and jump straight into intense sessions or long distances. This is typical of what we hear when a runner comes in with an overuse injury. To minimize excessive changes in training volume use the 10% rule as a guide for increasing mileage. Aim to increase your distance by no more than 10% per week. Also, ensure plenty of recovery time between sessions and consider incorporating modes of training with less impact such as cycling, elliptical trainers and weight training.

Poor running mechanics can contribute to overuse injuries by placing increased and uneven loads on one or multiple joints throughout the body. Running biomechanics can be altered by muscular tightness, weakness or imbalance, poor coordination, footwear type and wear, and previous injury.

At the clinic a thorough injury Pre-injury assessment can be performed where we can assess your previous injuries and running mechanics through several clinical tests, Gaitscan and video analysis of your running form. However, some of these tests can be done at home with minimal equipment and can be a useful tool to get an indication if poor mechanics will likely contribute to an overuse injury.


Test: Single Leg Squat

The single leg squat is a simple test that can be used to observe hip, knee and foot stability. One of the common observations from the test is a positive Trendelenberg sign. This occurs when the stabilizers of a runner’s stance leg are weak or lack control and fail to hold the pelvis level. This has large implications down the entire leg and contributes to common injuries such as illiotibial band friction syndrome, patella femoral pain and various tendinopathies down the leg.


To Perform the test:

  • Stand in front of a mirror or better yet, get a friend to take a video on your smartphone.
  • Place both hands on hips or fold them across your arms across your chest
  • Stand on one leg and perform 3 single leg squats.
  • Repeat on the other side.


Observing the squat:

If there is movement of the arms, tilt of the trunk, hip drop of the unsupported leg (Positive Trendelenberg sign), inward collapse of the knee or foot, or loss of balance then there are instabilities at one or more joints of the lower limb. These instabilities carry over into running and will contribute to an overuse injury. If there is pain present when doing the test, see your physiotherapist.

The majority of running related injuries can be prevented with an appropriate training plan and ensuring sound biomechanics. Preventing an injury is far simpler than treating them and it minimizes interruptions to your training program so you can enjoy the run and achieve your running goals.

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 To book in for a FREE Gaitscan Analysis with a Physiotherapist please call Get Active Physiotherapy on 1300 8 9 10 11.


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