You asked. We answered. We put our parkrunners’ most pressing questions to our team of experts including orthopaedic surgeons, physiotherapists and psychologists

Q: How important is flexibility for a good running technique? 

A: Running is a complex movement that requires multiple joints and muscles to work together at the same time. Flexibility is definitely an important component to a good running technique, but equally important is having good levels of strength and a running training programme, particularly if you’re training for an event like a 5k or marathon. The programme should be challenging but shouldn’t overload your muscles and joints, which can result in injury.

Yoga and pilates are traditionally seen as good ways to improve flexibility, but there are many other ways to get the same effect. The problem is we don’t move our hips and backs through their full range of motion enough, so the first step to becoming more flexible is to sit less and move more often.

Strength exercises help too – doing split squats can be a great way to improve the flexibility of the hip and deadlifts can sort stiff hamstrings.

John Doyle, Professional Head of Physiotherapy, Nuffield Health

Q: Which part of my foot should I land on when running? 

The first thing to note is that everyone runs with their own individual technique and more importantly there is no clear scientific evidence of an optimal technique.

A recent study looked at how the running technique of new runners changed over the course of 10 weeks. As they became more accustomed to running over this training period, their running technique also changed. This tells us that runners will develop their own technique the longer they train.

When running you will land either on your heel, the middle of the foot or more on your tiptoes. Generally, the faster you run, the further forward on the front of your foot you land. If you watch Usain Bolt sprinting, only the very front part of his foot comes into contact with the floor, whereas long-distance runners will land a bit further back towards the middle of their foot or even their heel.

One of the questions physiotherapists are often asked by runners is: ‘Should I try to change my technique to land on a different part of my foot to reduce injuries or improve my running?’. This will depend on each individual runner, but anyone who wants to change their running technique must gradually change their technique under the guidance of a physiotherapist or a running coach to ensure that the technique is right for them, and also so they don’t just injure another part of their body.

John Doyle, Professional Head of Physiotherapy, Nuffield Health

Q: I recently bought a new pair of running shoes and have found my calves are painful. Are there any exercises I can do at home to strengthen them?

When you change your footwear, your body needs time to adjust and time to modify its running pattern to that shoe. My advice would be to reduce the load you’re running (whether that’s distance or intensity) to a point where you aren’t getting pain, then gradually build back up from there.

Strength is definitely key for running.Try variations of calf raises, some with straight knees and some with bent knees to target different muscles.

To build up strength and endurance, try to vary the load and rep range. For pure strength, lift a heavier weight for fewer reps (between 2-4 reps for 5-6 sets) and for strength endurance you do the opposite – slightly less weight for more reps (12-15 reps for 3-4 sets).

Ashley James, Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, IPRS Health

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Want to learn more about dealing with common running injuries? Our experts have the answers

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