Three important stretches you might not be doing but should be

Runners are told that stretching can help to reduce their chances of injury, increase range of motion and improve running performance, and yet, stretching is still often overlooked. David Hickey, a  Physical Therapist at Kinetic Edge shares his top three stretches that are commonly neglected by runners.

Dorsiflexor Stretch

Most runners know the importance of calf stretching, however the opposite group of muscles around the front of the shin are often forgotten about.

Dorsiflexors bend your ankle upwards as you bring your leg forwards and prevent your toe from catching on the ground. This is extra important for trail and winter running.

To stretch your dorsiflexors:

  • Place your shin and top of your foot on top of a bench or flat on the floor.
  • Gently sit back trying to bring your bum towards your heel.
  • You should feel a stretch in the front of your shin/ankle.

Straight Leg Frog Stretch

A common cause of medial (inside) knee pain in runners is due to pes anserine irritation. The pes anserine is a tendon that attaches three different muscles to the shin bone on the inside of the knee. Two of these muscles that are common causes of pain in runners are gracilis (groin muscle) and semitendinosis (hamstring muscle).

To stretch these medial knee muscles:

  • Place one knee on a mat or soft surface for comfort.
  • Extend the other leg straight out to the side so your legs are spread far apart.
  • Place both hands on the floor in front of you with your elbows straight.
  • Keeping a flat back, slide your hips towards the wall behind you and pulse in and out of the stretch.
  • By keeping the toes of the straight leg pointed forward your will feel a groin dominant stretch.
  • By allowing your foot to rotate so your toes are pointing up, you will feel more of a hamstring stretch.
  • You might also feel tension on the inside of the knee, this is okay if it is not painful.

Plantar Release with a Ball

Pain in the heel or arch of the foot is something that frequently disrupts a runner’s training. When the structures in the bottom of the feet are neglected and become tight, it is common that inflammation and pain will follow. Therefore, it is a good idea to regularly roll out your feet with a ball.

Lacrosse or golf balls work great for this drill:

  • Sitting or standing, place a ball under the arch of your foot.
  • Roll up and down the base of the foot, spending extra time in the more tight and tender spots.
  • Put more weight through your leg to increase the intensity of the release.

David Hickey is a Physiotherapist at Kinetic Edge in Ottawa. He believes in the importance of movement as medicine. He takes a detailed and focused approach when treating his clients. He often uses hands-on therapy, dry needling, soft tissue techniques and corrective exercises. Thanks again to David for taking time to share his knowledge with us.