By Kirsten Jones
The joy of running is that it’s easy to throw some shoes on and go for a run! We all know how to run (even when some of us look goofy doing it), but should we all be running? As a physiotherapist, there are a few things that I always assess when I see a new patient with a running injury. One of those is range of motion (ROM) of certain joints. When we run, we are repetitively going through the same ROM’s. If we don’t have enough ROM in the right places, well… the range has to come from somewhere else. That somewhere else tends to be where an injury forms.
Here are three things you can check on yourself, to see if you are setting yourself up for an injury, or if you’re good to go!
Believe it or not, if you are missing toe extension, you are at risk of a myriad of injuries, especially to your achilles tendon. Such a little movement, but actually a big deal. To test, pull up your toe…you need 30° to run safely. Reasons for this movement to be lacking could be previous joint sprains or breaks, or arthritis.
Sit on a chair, and put your big toe against the wall.
Keeping your heel down, bring your knee to the wall.
If you can do this, you have enough ankle ROM to run.
(Please note, while this is enough range to run, to do a lot of other functional tasks during the day, you need way more than this. Normal ROM for this movement would be where you can move your foot 8-10 cm away from the wall, keep your heel down, and still get your knee to the wall.) This movement tends to get stiff if you have sprained your ankles a lot, or broken your ankle in the past.
Hip Flexion (Hamstring stretch)
I’m not looking for circus moves with this one.
You need to be able to lift your leg 70° from the ground to have enough range for running.
When you do it, make sure your low back isn’t rounding out, and pushing into the ground…the movement should be coming from your hips, not your spine
How to fix it: what to do if you don’t have enough range
So what do you do if you’re missing range on any of these movements? Well, the tests are also the exercises to improve their ROM. You can try to work at them for a couple weeks…preferably 4-5 times a day with 30 second holds. Yup, it’s a lot. If you’re not noticing a change after 2 weeks, that’s when you need me.
Check these movements out…it only takes a minute, and will keep you running safely this season.