Why running is bad for you!

Running is a very high-risk activity in relation to injury. Between 6 and 8 out of 10 people who take up running WILL get injured.

So, surely it is time to start recommending that people stop running, right?

Well, no. I would never make that recommendation, but it is time to take stock of ourselves and the way we approach running with our patients and customers!

I shall start with my clinician's hat on and say that we have a problem because for the most part the people who present to our clinics are hurt runners, part of the 60 - 80%. And, we tend to get distracted by this, because we want to make them better. So we reach for our treatment box of tricks and try to patch them up.

But, are we really solving the problem?

Let's backtrack a little bit and talk about running and injury. What we do know is that in terms of injury, running is quite a high-risk sport. And the interesting thing about running is that, despite many advances in treatment and external influencers, for example, footwear, the injury rate, 60 - 80%, has not budged since injury rates were first recorded back in the late 70's


Not moved, at all!

Now, this is a real conundrum, because in the intervening almost 50 years sports medicine as a discipline has not only evolved but has become very sophisticated and very research driven.

In addition, we as clinicians are far better educated at all sorts of levels in things that are important for runners.

  • the importance of sleep
  • hydration
  • nutrition
  • strength
  • lean muscle mass
  • Amongst many other things.

We have also seen huge change and progress in the evolution of running footwear, and, we hope, a much better understanding of the science behind footwear and what might help the runner.

But NONE of these things has helped the runner avoid injury and this is the #1 fear for everyone who straps on the old sneakers.

So, what is going on here, and why are we still dealing with this problem? What can we do, at a clinical level, as technical retailers recommending shoes, to change this number for good?

To understand that, we first need to take a look at the average runner.

Feel free to disagree, but here is my snapshot in time of the average runner of 2019, who is pretty much exactly the same as the average runner of 1997 (starting to see where I am going with this? Stay with me!!)

The average runner will:

  • pull on his carefully selected and highly technical running shoes, often recommended at a cost by a knowledgeable professional, which most likely will have absolutely zero influence on that runner's risk of being injured.
  • He will walk out the front door and turn left because he is time poor and that is the way he has always turned
  • He will not turn right, which might change everything because that is not familiar and he just does not have the time
  • He will then run on pretty much the same route he has run for the past year
  • He will run on the same surface
  • in the same  shoes
  • in the same direction
  • on the same camber
  • for about the same distance given time available
  • Then he will have finished his run, and 2 - 3 days later he will repeat this same process exactly.

Often this average runner will do this not for days or weeks, but for months and years.

And, in due course, sooner or later, this runner, just like 60 - 80% of his peers, will get injured. He will seek treatment, get better, and go back to running. And the whole process will be repeated.

Eventually, our average runner will get disheartened, and citing a "broken down runners body", our average runner will stop running.

And, there is a little tragedy like this happening all over the world every day that I think can be prevented.


Ok guys, you are all very smart people, what is the problem here?

  • It is NOT too much, to soon.
  • It is NOT the shoes.
  • It almost certainly is not their biomechanics
  • It is not lack of sleep or poor nutrition or poor medical care or lack of information and education.
  • It is much simpler than that. 

It is...


The average runner never varies the way they run. They never change direction, they never change to a different surface or terrain. They buy the next model of the shoe they have been wearing for years.

They never tempo train and they do not think about how they might get stronger, for running.

And so they subject their bodies to the terrible, grinding, damaging effects of repetition, and the human body HATES repetition.

The human body hates repetition because the tissues most affected by this load, tendon, muscle, ligament, and bone, do not have the ability to repair the damage inflicted by this reputation before that runner pulls on his shoes again and turns left.

And, we are implicit in this crime.

Because we have not thought enough about how to treat our injured runners outside of our box of treatment tricks.

Somewhere along the way, we got distracted from the real problem.

How many of us spend at least half of our initial consult time working out a training program for our injured runners that does not involve "turning left"?

How many of us make the explicit, written recommendations that the injured runner runs on a light trail, for at least a couple of runs per week, in different shoes?

How many of us insist on tempo training.

How many of us insist that one run per week be cut out altogether and replaced with a few hoops with the mates or a kick of the footy?

Not enough is the answer, and that needs to change, because if we can reduce the repetition....

We can reduce running injury

It is all about load management people, and load management for an injured runner is more important that anything else in the treatment toolbox.

Please give this some thought, and I would love to read any comments.

Simon Bartold
Director of Bartold Clinical