Pure Physio Blog

Are there Benefits for Road Runners Hitting the Trails?

Published on
15 Mar 2019

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Written by
Cara Peake
Rehabilitation Physiotherapist

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Ever wondered if the surface you ran on impacted your risk of injury, the types of injuries you might get and the muscle strength you develop?

The bottom line is: it sure does! Trail running has gained great momentum in the last decade with good reason. Its does not only provide a sense of freedom and stunning scenery but has some significant musculoskeletal benefits that road runners should start paying attention to.

Injury Risk

Trial and roadrunners tend to attract different types of injuries, which are reflected in the different running surfaces. Trail runners are more likely to sustain injuries as a result from the uneven surface and reduced stability such as ankle sprains. However, their road counterparts are far more likely to suffer repetitive load injures such as stress reactions and tendon injuries. This knowledge can be of great benefit to roadrunners that suffer repeated stress injuries by varying their repetitive load simply by using the undulating and softer surface of trails. Trail runs can be easily supplemented into their program for their long and recovery runs. Conversely, athletes with hypermobile ankles or poor ankle stability should consider adding some ankle strength and proprioceptive training before hitting the hard trails.

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Strength and Stability

Running in theory is a fairly linear and repetitive action, which builds exceptional strength in one direction. Unfortunately, this can leave an athlete vulnerable to injury, as our musculoskeletal system needs varied demand to create a good strength base. Runners have quite a reputation for having gym phobias, which for a roadrunner will result in a reduced exposure to different movements. Trail running provides a natural gym with side steps; step ups and leaps all just part of the natural landscape. These movements help build the stabilising muscles in your ankles, hips and knees which significantly reduce your risk of injury.

Running Technique

The beauty of road running is you can run without disruption and get into an easy rhythm and stride length, which becomes an auto pilot setting for most runners. Every runner admits this is a wonderful feeling but if you want to improve your ability to tackle the curbs and crowds at your next road race you better spend some time on the trails. Trails force us to make quick decisions and changes to our stride length to manage the varied terrain and like all things the more we do it to the quicker and more efficient we become.

We’re here to help.

Mix it up and find a running trail to explore! You might be pleasantly surprised. Contact us for more info.

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About the Author

Cara Peake — Rehabilitation Physiotherapist

Cara graduated from Physiotherapy in 2010 and has since built her passion around injury prevention and sports performance. Cara has focused her interests on strength re-training, running biomechanics, kinetic link training and injury prevention.

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