Running-related injury rates are between 30% and 80% annually with the knee being the most common site of injury (van Gent et al., 2007). This prevalence has promoted research into possible mechanisms and solutions.
A recent study on novice distance runners (Chan et al., 2017) provides an excellent example of how benefits of gait retraining for injury reduction might be overstated/oversimplified. In a robust design, 320 novice runners were randomly assigned to a gait retraining or control group after initial assessment of impact characteristics on a force-sensing treadmill. The gait retraining group had four sessions per week for two weeks, running on a force-sensing treadmill that provided visual feedback of impact force. They were instructed to ‘land softer’ to reduce or eliminate the impact spike in the force trace. The control group had the same treadmill time, but without feedback or instruction. Both groups were assessed again after two weeks, then tracked over the next 12 months for injury. Gait retraining reduced loading rate, whereas controls did not change or got worse. Injury rates over the next 12 months were 16% in the retrained group compared to 38% in the the control group equating to a 62% reduction in overall injury risk with gait retraining.