Preparing For A Marathon: Proper Injury Prevention

Posted on: 7 January 2015

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If you're undertaking the vigorous training required in order to get in shape for a marathon, you'll need to give even more attention to your feet and ankles than you already do. With the right running form and equipment, your feet will be able to go the distance and help you meet your goals. 

Shoes And Socks For Success

If you aren't an avid runner (yet), you'll need to get outfitted properly to begin training. If you don't wear proper running shoes, and if you skimp on your gear, your long distance training runs will be painful--before and after. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

  • never begin a training program in old shoes. When you strike the ground, your foot, your body, and your shoes absorb a tremendous amount of force. If your shoes are old, their ability to cushion the blow is reduced, meaning that all of that kinetic energy is sent to the tissues in your feet, ankles, and knees. You'll have increased changes of developing tendonitis in the knee and ankle, and shin splints will become your new best enemy post run. 
  • never use a pair of shoes that were worn frequently by another runner. You never know how many miles those hand-me-downs have seen before you start using them. Also, as you run, your shoes form to your feet and striking patterns. Your feet may not have the same level of support in the areas you need if you use a shoe broken in by someone else. 
  • always choose good socks. Part of marathon training means developing your body's ability to endure through long runs. During those runs, your feet will begin to chafe, and blisters will start to form after you've clocked several miles. Thick socks that are tight-fitting to the foot are the best way to help prevent your feet from experiencing this painful ordeal. Moisture in the shoe can make this problem worse. Running socks are made from synthetic materials that wick moisture away from the foot.

Form Will Make You Fabulous

You never would have thought that running would be so complicated. You just start moving, right? Well, running a certain way will actually help you to prevent injury and pain, especially if you are putting in as many miles as marathon training requires. The next time you lace up your running shoes and start pounding the pavement:

1. Try to strike with the toe or the middle of the foot. Many runners will strike with the heel. Heel striking is not terrible every once in a while, but when running over a long distance, this consistent motion can actually lead to injury, especially because heel striking causes runners to overstep, straightening the leg too much. When your heel hits the ground first during overstrike, the ankle and knee joints, instead of helping to cushion the shock through natural bending, receive the blunt force of the impact without the flexibility of motion that they would normally have if the foot hit the ground differently.

If you are a natural heel striker, though, it would be best to talk to a foot and ankle specialist, like a podiatric sports medicine doctor, about your running tendencies. Some people are more naturally inclined to mid-foot striking, and it can be difficult for some people to adapt to this style of running. If it is not done properly, the change from heel to toe could actually also cause injury. It's always best to consult a specialist about striking patterns to learn which is best for you. 

2. Lean forward. Running is an action similar to catching yourself from falling. Leaning forward while running engages the upper body into similar forward motion, and takes some of the stress off of the lower joints. Leaning forward while running will help reduce pain in the knees, especially as the force of running is compounded over the miles of marathon training, as well as reduce your chances of developing stress fractures in the feet.