Why avoid stretching before running? Most recreational runners enjoy stretching before running, meanwhile 80% of recreational runners get injured. Connection? Quite possible.
To date, the facts about the effects of stretching on injury prevention are lacking and no study has shown that stretching has protective effects against injury runners.
A review published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise investigated if stretching (static and dynamic) prevented injury and based on their findings, the scientists recommended that you might want to avoid stretching before a run. This is what the review concluded:
Why Stretching Before Running Should Be Completely Avoided
Stretching Increases Flexibility and Range of Motion
This is great for gymnastics, not so great for running.
Most likely, you’ve read lots on how increasing the range of motion of your joints and muscles is important in running. However, the optimal range of motion for efficient, injury-free running has not been quantified.
- there’s no solid evidence on how much range of motion is required for a runner to stay injury free or to be more energy-efficient
- there is no scientific evidence that suggests stretching to improve range of motion enhances athletic performance in runners
However, static stretching might improve performance for some sports that require an increased range of motion such as gymnastics. Therefore, stretching may be advantageous in the context of gymnastics, but NOT in the context of running.
The issue of stretching before a run has researchers scratching their heads because the injury rate among runners who stretch remain considerably high. Plus, the lack of reliable way to measure the efficacy of pre-run stretching on injury prevention has made it difficult for researchers to believe that stretching is essential before a run.
The truth of the matter is stretching before a run might actually be an obstacle in improving running performance.
One study showed that stretching before a run impairs the capacity of the muscles and tendons of the lower leg to store and release valuable energy needed for efficient running.
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Lindstet et al. Do muscles function as adaptable locomotor spring? J Exp Biol, 2002; 205:2211-2216.
Nelson et al. Chronic stretching and running economy. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2001; 11(5):260-5.
Thacker et al. The impact of stretching on sport injury risk: a systematic review of the literature. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2004;36(3):371-8.
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.