5 Lies You May Have Been Told About Running

Like any sport or recreational pastime, there are rules when it comes to running. You should probably wait to run after eating, and you need to watch how much distance you’re adding to your routes each week to stave off injury. But other so-called “rules” are actually just myths disguised with good intentions, perpetuated by misinformation. Not only will they give you false facts, but they could be slowing you down.

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting out, you might have fallen prey to one of these myths and now take them as fact. Take a look and make sure you’re not hitting the road with the wrong information.

1. You need to do pre-workout stretches

Man stretching before a run

This man is stretching before a run. | iStock.com

Stretches are supposed to be good for you — they help repair muscles that are in high use. But starting your workout by pulling your arms across your chest and tightening your quad muscles aren’t going to do much good. In fact, stretching before a run can be one of the times when you’re most susceptible to injury. “It’s a myth because your muscles are not warm yet and it’s very important for your muscles to be warmed up before stretching,” triathlon coach Hollie Kenney told Competitor.com. “Cold muscles are at the highest risk for injury, which can happen while/from stretching.”

Not only that, but static stretching can harm your endurance, Men’s Fitness reports. “[D]oing static stretches before a run is a bad idea because it triggers a protective response in your neuromuscular system that temporarily weakens your muscles and reduces performance,” Matt Fitzgerald, sports nutritionist, triathlon coach, and author of 80/20 Running, told the publication.

2. Running is bad for your knees

man nursing an injury

People with bad knees believe they should never run. | iStock.com

Did you give up on running because your friends told you it was the fastest route to arthritis? It might be time to give running another shot. A study from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that long-distance running does not increase your risk of osteoarthritis. And though the authors do recommend more study, part of their conclusion was that “long-distance running might even have a protective effect against joint degeneration.”

When your foot strikes the ground as you’re running, a force of about two to three times your bodyweight courses up through your leg, Outside Online reports. However, research has found that runners take fewer strides than other people who walk, essentially evening out the net force that your legs (and therefore your knees) sustain.

3. You don’t need to strength train

barbel weights, exercise

Strength training is still important. | iStock.com

Running is great because it means never doing another weight set, right? Not so much. If you’re just looking to get into better shape and maybe even finish a marathon, weight stacks aren’t necessarily required. But if you want to improve your running potential and compete at a higher level, you’re going to have to do some reps. “You can run five days a week and you’ll finish a marathon, but if you want to PR or qualify for Boston you need to have some kind of strength training in there. It’s about improving our performance,” John Martinez, assistant head doctor for the Ironman World Championships, told Competitor.com.

According to Breaking Muscle, strength training can make you finish your races faster and also reduce the risk of injury. And it’s not all about your legs, either. The story noted the importance of building a strong upper body to ensure you maintain good form while running.

4. Barefoot is best

Woman Running

Running barefoot is not always best. | iStock.com

Remember the Vibram FiveFinger shoes that made everyone look like amphibians? Minimalist running, either with barely-there shoes or completely barefoot, became incredibly popular a few years ago. However, it won’t necessarily be better for you, as so many minimalist advocates claimed. “I see people come in [to my office] in the minimalist shoes after they’ve run five miles their first time out in them and want to know why they got stress fracture. It’s like taking a car and putting two different sized wheels on it and then asking why it’s not steering right,” Martinez told Competitor.com.

The trend caught the attention of several researchers, who ultimately cast doubt on how much better of a runner someone becomes when going au naturale, at least in the footwear department. “Five separate studies there found no significant benefits, in terms of economy, from switching to minimalist, barefoot-style footwear,” The New York Times reports.

If you’re a strong believer in the benefits and took your time easing into the trend, no one’s stopping you from running 5K in your bare feet. But if you’re just starting out, Martinez warns that moderation is best.

5. There is a perfect running shoe

close up of a a runner on a treadmill

Your running shoe may not help you break records, and that’s OK. | iStock.com

Running can be a fairly inexpensive form of exercise: You don’t need a membership anywhere, and no special equipment is required. But costs do come in when you begin buying quality running shoes. However, be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s a “perfect” shoe out there that will propel your feet on magic wings to your personal records. REI explains your selection will vary depending on the shape of your foot and the type of training you do.

Instead, focus on finding a shoe that feels good to you. What’s more, keep an open mind when you need to replace your old pair — you don’t need to keep buying the exact same pair each time. Switching up styles and brands can actually be good for you, as long as the new pair also feels comfortable.

Follow Nikelle on Twitter @Nikelle_CS