5 WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR JOINTS
Reduce the load
Shorten Your Stride
“An increase in step rate of 5 to 10 per cent can reduce patellofemoral joint load by up to 20 per cent,” Willy says. Garmin’s foot pod or the MilestonePod can help you monitor your step rate. Willy says stride rates are highly individual, but it’s generally recommended to aim for 160 to 190 steps per minute. A word of warning: be careful not to accidentally change how your foot hits the ground. Shifting your foot-strike pattern can change the load on your Achilles tendon.
Check Your Mechanics
Although Willy doesn’t want you to change your foot strike, he does suggest having your running form evaluated if you suffer from joint pain – or if you’re really serious about preventing it. A physical therapist who works with runners should be able to detect issues such as hip adduction and overstriding – and instruct you on how to correct them. In research he conducted in 2012, Willy found that runners with knee pain who did eight gait-retraining sessions had less knee pain when re-evaluated months later.
Watch Your Weight
Runners often complain of more joint aches and pains as they age, and one contributing factor can be weight gain. Dr Paul DeVita, director of the Biomechanics Laboratory at East Carolina University in the US, has conducted research that links excess weight with increased knee load – and possible injury risk – in runners. “Many of us are simply too heavy for our joints,” Spain says.
Replace Worn Shoes
The verdict is still out on what footwear is best for reducing joint load. Both Willy and Paquette say you need to find out what works best for you. When you do get a new pair, it’s key to break them in with a few short runs before going long in them. “The exposure to a new shoe after being in an old one could potentially be a risk factor for injury,” Paquette says.
Mix It Up
Changing where and how loads are placed on joints may keep injuries at bay. “Runners who always do the same thing every day are more at risk,” Willy says. “Change the surface, your route, and your tempo, and cross-train. The more variable your movements, the less you stress your tissues.”
POP A PILL?
You’ve undoubtedly seen the rows of glucosamine supplements at the chemist, and wondered if they help. While you’ll find plenty of people who swear by them, the data-driven answer seems to be mixed. For a 2015 study published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, researchers gave 605 subjects with knee pain either glucosamine-chondroitin or a placebo.
After two years, both groups reported reductions in knee pain in equal levels – meaning the glucosamine had worked no better than a sugar pill. This builds on previous research. A few studies have found that glucosamine could possibly slow arthritic changes. Still, most docs will tell you to keep extra kilograms off, strength-train regularly, and shorten your stride.