8 Common Trail Running Mistakes Your Chiropractor Wishes You Knew

trail running
Written by Brent Wells

It doesn’t really matter what level of an athlete you are — you know that proper nutrition, sleep and resting are all key factors to performing at your best at whatever sport you participate in. Trail running is no exception to that rule. However, a common problem that athletes have is that they push themselves too hard and wind up with injuries that could have been prevented.

Studies suggest that one in every three runners will suffer some type of injury in his lifetime. The most common places for injuries include the foot, shin, knee and ankle, with the back and groin following close behind. While there is always going to be risks associated with running, there are ways to lower them so that they are less likely to occur. Find out what your chiropractor wants you to know before you head out on the trail to beat your personal best.

Common Injuries of Runners

Chiropractors see patients come into their office after trail running with all kinds of injuries. The most common ones are:

  • Soft tissue injuries — ligament sprains and pulled muscles
  • Skin injuries — bruises, cuts, scrapes, sunburns
  • Shin splints
  • Blisters from improper footwear

By avoiding the following improper running techniques, injuries can be prevented from occurring in the first place.

You’re Landing Too Hard on Your Feet

When you are running on a trail, specifically if that trail goes downhill, you are more likely to land harder on your feet. It’s natural for your body because of the gravity that is forcing you back down to the Earth. If you listen to music through earbuds while you are running and you can hear your feet hitting the ground above it, you are definitely putting too much stress on your body.

You’re Landing on the Wrong Part of Your Foot

Running on flat land, you try and land on the mid part of your foot most often to absorb some of the shock of hitting the pavement or ground. That can prove to be difficult when you are running on a hill. Instead of aiming for that midfoot region, you should focus on putting your body weight on the balls of your feet.

You’re Not Focusing on Your Stride

Regardless of what your personal stride is, you have to avoid hitting your heel too hard on the ground, something that is referred to as heel striking. Depending on what professional running coach you talk to, some say that long strides will accomplish this. Others claim that short and quick stride movements work better. That is something that you will have to work on to determine which is best for you.

In addition to your stride, be mindful of where your arms are swinging. They should be at a 90-degree angle, and you should move them at the speed you want your legs to move. Most often, your legs are going to flow at the same rate your arms do naturally.

You’re Not Strengthening Your Hips

Your knees take a lot of the force when it comes to running on trails. After just a short time, you can start to feel pain or even fatigue out because your body just can’t take any more of the pressure. If you work on strengthening your hips, your body is going to automatically transfer some of that pressure and improve your running form. There are plenty of exercises you can do to accomplish this.

You’re Wearing the Wrong Shoes

One reason that people choose running as a hobby is because it doesn’t require a ton of expensive gear or equipment to enjoy it. There is one thing that you should never skimp on, though, and that’s a good pair of running shoes. If you’re an avid runner, you probably have at least a few good pairs of trainers lying around. It’s easy to grab them and lace them up before heading out. However, trail running isn’t the same as jogging on a street or treadmill. You need to pick shoes that are going to support you through the ever-changing terrain.

Trail-running shoes often have stronger soles and bigger grips on the bottom to keep you from falling when the ground changes under your feet. Wearing improper shoes can result in shin splints along with other injuries that will keep you from running at all for weeks or even months at a time. It is an investment worth making if you plan on continuing with your running.

You Aren’t Getting Enough Proper Nutrition

Along with taking care of your body on the outside, you have to properly care for what’s taking place on the inside. Nutrition is more than just eating right — there are a lot of things that go into good nutrition including:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Supplementing the vitamins and minerals your body needs
  • Exercising

By following these guidelines, you will naturally have more energy and you will provide your body with a layer of protection that it wouldn’t have otherwise. Research has proven that if you are following the proper good nutrition elements and suffer an injury or illness, you will recover a whole lot faster. That means that you can get back out on the trails sooner avoiding too much downtime.

You’re Not Taking Time to Rest

Athletes in all different categories of sports have a history of not taking the time to let their bodies rest. There are several reasons for this, including fear of falling behind or getting too lazy and quitting completely after taking a break. It isn’t likely that you are going to completely lose interest in running after taking a day off. What’s most important is allowing your body the time to rest and recover, even if you haven’t suffered an injury.

Frequently, when runners hear that they need to take a rest day, they will sneak in some other activity to keep their bodies active. Cross-training can have many benefits, but you shouldn’t be doing it on your rest days. If you aren’t taking the time to let your body heal, you are more susceptible to injury, burn-out and poor performance when you get back to your first love of running.

You’re Not Listening to Your Body

Perhaps most importantly, you have to listen to your body first. If there is something wrong, your body will let you know through pain and discomfort. The most dedicated athletes out there will often try and ignore the signs that something is wrong and they will push themselves to and beyond the limits. While it might provide them with some short-term satisfaction, in the long run, there is more damage than necessary done to the body.

It’s easy to think to yourself that the problem isn’t that bad. Maybe you’ve been molded into someone who is supposed to just suck it up and work through the pain. That may work a few times, but when your body has been stressed beyond its breaking point, something is going to snap. If you can’t walk or sit down without feeling discomfort, at a minimum, you should take a few days off from running. If the problem persists, seek out medical advice from a health care provider. Fighting through the pain sounds tough, but the consequences can be severe.

Tips for Trail Runners

Along with the more in-depth mistakes that trail runners frequently make, there are other actions that can be taken to prevent pain and injury while you’re out working on reaching your running goals.

  • Do a proper warm-up and cool down for protection of your muscles
  • Drink lots of water
  • Don’t push yourself beyond your limits
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Run in cooler temperatures
  • Get massages regularly
  • See your chiropractor for adjustments and alignment for proper posture and form

There is a little more to trail running than just getting out there and taking off. If you want to enjoy the sport for years to come without suffering injury, you need to avoid these common mistakes. As long as you do, you should be able to continue to improve and enjoy all that this sport has to offer you.

Treatment for Trail Runners at Your Local Chiropractic Office

If you are looking for a chiropractor in Anchorage, or anywhere else around the globe that can help you, rest assured knowing that qualified professionals know how to get you some relief from your injuries. Of course, they are going to tell you that the best treatment for the damage you have done to your body is prevention. Before you head out on your favorite trail, make sure to consider these common mistakes that runners make.

Your chiropractor can work on your muscles and bones to be sure everything is in alignment. Additionally, the adjustments done to your spine can ensure that you are practicing the proper posture for the runs you have ahead of you.

Instead of coming back from what should have been a pleasant experience feeling worse than when you left, practice the proper technique for trail running, get quality shoes and follow proper nutrition guidelines. If you do those things, you won’t have a reason to seek out treatment.

About the author

Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his Bachelor's of Science degree before receiving his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998. He is passionate about being a chiropractor and strives to provide his patients with compassionate care for an overall better health and well-being. Dr. Wells is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. He continues his education in studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions and brain injury trauma.

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