by Maureen Ambrose PT, DPT, OCS

Are you a runner looking to increase your miles? Or, are you rehabilitating a running injury and ready to return to running? Is it possible to safely increase running mileage with the least risk for injury? The Journal of Orthopaedic Sports Physical Therapy has published several findings to consider.

Researchers followed over 800 new runners for 1 year, where the runners tracked their weekly mileage and weekly increase in mileage. The runners classified their increase in mileage in one week as less than 10%, 10-30%, and more than 30%. Over the course of the study, 202 runners reported a running-related injury. Analysis of the 2 week period prior to the onset of injury showed that:
– Runners who increased their mileage by 30% or more over 2 weeks had the highest rates of injury
– Runners who increased their mileage by less than 10% over 2 weeks had the lowest rate of injury
– Runners who increased running speed and distance were at higher risk for
o IT band syndrome
o Shin splints
o Trochanteric bursitis
o Patellofemoral pain
o Patellar tendinopathy

An interesting finding was that some runners sustained injuries that were not associated with an increase in running mileage. These include:
– Hip flexor strains
– Achilles tendinopathy
– Plantar fasciitis
– Hamstring and calf strains
– Tibial stress fractures

This may suggest that these injuries which seem to occur unexpectedly are due to other errors in training. Also, symptoms of an injury may not appear until up to 2 weeks after increasing running mileage.

It is recommended to avoid a sudden increase in running mileage by 30% or more. If possible, the safest strategy is to increase mileage by less than 10% over 2 weeks. This enables your tissues to adapt to a small increase in load that is manageable without strain. The therapists at Physical Therapy First can help you recover from any of the above injuries and develop a plan to get you back to running.

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2014;44(10):748.