Background: The increasing popularity of distance running has been accompanied by an increase in running-related injuries, such that up to 85% of novice runners incur an injury in a given year. Previous studies have used a gait retraining program to successfully lower impact loading, which has been associated with many running ailments. However, softer footfalls may not necessarily prevent running injury.
Purpose: To examine vertical loading rates before and after a gait retraining program and assess the effectiveness of the program in reducing the occurrence of running-related injury across a 12-month observation period.
Study design: Randomized controlled trial; Level of evidence, 1.
Methods: A total of 320 novice runners from the local running club completed this study. All the participants underwent a baseline running biomechanics evaluation on an instrumented treadmill with their usual running shoes at 8 and 12 km/h. Participants were then randomly assigned to either the gait retraining group or the control group. In the gait retraining group (n = 166), participants received 2 weeks of gait retraining with real-time visual feedback. In the control group (n = 154), participants received treadmill running exercise but without visual feedback on their performance. The training time was identical between the 2 groups. Participants' running mechanics were reassessed after the training, and their 12-month posttraining injury profiles were tracked by use of an online surveillance platform.
Results: A significant reduction was found in the vertical loading rates at both testing speeds in the gait retraining group ( P < .001, Cohen's d > 0.99), whereas the loading rates were either similar or slightly increased in the control group after training ( P = .001 to 0.461, Cohen's d = 0.03 to -0.14). At 12-month follow-up, the occurrence of running-related musculoskeletal injury was 16% and 38% in the gait retraining and control groups, respectively. The hazard ratio between gait retraining and control groups was 0.38 (95% CI, 0.25-0.59), indicating a 62% lower injury risk in gait-retrained runners compared with controls.
Conclusion: A 2-week gait retraining program is effective in lowering impact loading in novice runners. More important, the occurrence of injury is 62% lower after 2 weeks of running gait modification. Registration: HKUCTR-1996 (University of Hong Kong Clinical Trials Registry).
Keywords: biofeedback; injury prevention; kinetics; running.