Does Stretching Before Running Really Prevent Injury?

You have probably heard that stretching before going for a run is a wise choice to loosen up your muscles and prevent injuries from occurring. However, a new experimental research study questions the theory that stretching can prevent injury while running.

Doctors at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons convention received information about this question, when doctor Daniel Pereles presented his experimental findings. Testing this stretching theory, Pereles assigned almost 3,000 runners who ran more than ten miles each week into two separate groups; one that engaged in stretching for duration of 3-5 minutes before they ran, and one that did not. Runners who previously participated in stretching routinely were assigned to the non-stretching group, and runners who did not stretch were assigned to the stretching group. The groups were told to keep participating in any other warm-up routines before running, which they normally preformed besides stretching, such as walking before they ran. The study lasted for three months, in which participants recorded any type of injury occurrence that prevented them from running for at least a week such as stress fractures or muscle tears.

What did Pereles find? He found that both groups’ injury recordings compiled together resulted in a 16% injury rate for both the stretching group and the non-stretching group.  What Pereles found even more interesting was the injury rates based on who switched their routines. Each group had about a 23% increase in injury, whether they had switched from stretching, to not stretching, or vice versa. The results indicated that both experimental groups injury rates were the same. This was something Pereles couldn’t explain. However, he did conclude based on his study that the normal 5 minute stretching routine before running (usually recommended) doesn’t make any difference in injury rates.

Does this mean runners shouldn’t stretch? The question is still up for debate and hasn’t been medically peer reviewed. Although more doctors have researched the topic and have found that there may be some truth to Pereles’ experimental findings, most doctors can agree that participating in a type of warm-up before you go for a run is beneficial for your overall health.

There are other ways besides stretching that can help prevent injuries from occurring, specifically foot injuries. Make sure you have a correct fit of running shoe. Supportive shoes that are specified to your type of feet are worth investing in. Also, build up your running endurance as foot pain or injury can be avoided by slowly adding on more miles. And lastly - don’t overdo it!

Stretching may have come into questioning for preventing injury, but there are other beneficial ways to prevent injured feet and keep your feet healthy.

Want more tips on how to prevent foot injuries? Call our office today!

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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