Running is a physically demanding sport, whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a 5K enthusiast. To perform at your best and minimize the risk of injury, it’s essential to prepare your body adequately. Physiotherapy for runners is one tool that can help you run smarter so you can maximize your enjoyment of this popular activity.

In this blog, we will explore the science of running, gait analysis, tailored training plans, injury prevention and management. In addition, we discuss how physiotherapy for runners can be a game-changer in your race day preparation.

Table of Contents:

The Science of Running

It’s important to first discuss the biomechanics of running in order to better understand how physiotherapy for runners can help prepare you for this activity.

Running is similar to walking in terms of locomotor activity. However, there are key differences. Essentially, as a runner increases their speed, they must produce greater energy to elevate and balance the head, arms and trunk of the body than during normal walking. At the same time, the muscles and joints must be able to absorb increased amounts of energy from hitting the ground with more force while in motion.[i]

Running requires:

  • Greater balance
  • Greater muscle strength
  • Greater joint range of movement[ii]

Let’s take a look at how different parts of the body all play a role in running biomechanics:

Body PartRole in Running
HipProvides stability, power generation, and range of motion
ThighStabilize the knee, cushion the foot hitting the ground
KneeMinimize shock of hitting the ground, undergo extension to propel the body forward
AchillesAids calf muscles for push-off, essential for propelling body forward
AnkleStabilize leg and upper body, undergo plantar flexion to propel body forward
FootAbsorbing impact forces, propelling body forward, and maintaining balance
Upper BodyMaintaining posture and balance


Running is a high-impact, repetitive activity that places substantial stress on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. To excel in a race, a physiotherapist can help ensure you have the strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity to run efficiently and injury free.

Pre-Race Physiotherapy Assessment

The journey to race day begins with an initial physiotherapy assessment. This assessment involves a comprehensive evaluation of your current physical condition, including posture, muscle strength, flexibility, and any existing injuries or pain. The physiotherapist will also discuss your race goals and training regimen.

  1. Posture and Alignment: Physiotherapists observe and assess your posture and body alignment. Correcting posture issues can help you run more efficiently, reducing the risk of overuse injuries.
  2. Muscle Strength and Balance: A physiotherapist can assess your muscle strength and balance, identifying any weaknesses or imbalances that could lead to injury during training or racing. Addressing these issues can help you perform better and stay injury-free.
  3. Flexibility: Flexibility is essential for a runner’s range of motion. A physiotherapist can develop a stretching routine tailored to your specific needs, helping you maintain proper form and stride length.
  4. Injury Prevention: If you have a history of injuries, your physiotherapist will work on preventive strategies to minimize the risk of recurring problems. They may suggest exercises and stretches to strengthen the affected area. Novice runners will experience almost 2.5 times the number of injuries as recreational runners when running the same number of hours.[iv]

You may also enjoy reading: Running for Seniors

Tailored Training Plans

Once your physiotherapist has assessed your condition, they can create a personalized training plan that addresses your weaknesses and maximizes your strengths. This plan will not only improve your running performance but also reduce the likelihood of injury. Here are some components of a physiotherapy-based training plan for runners:

  1. Strength Training: Physiotherapists often incorporate strength training exercises into your routine to target muscle imbalances and enhance overall power. Strong muscles provide better support for your joints, reducing the risk of overuse injuries. One study set out to determine whether 8 weeks of strength training could improve pace during a 10 km run. They found that after strength training, people were able to run faster towards the middle and end of the run since they had better endurance than those that were not trained.[v]
  2. Core Stability: A strong core is the foundation of good running form. Your physiotherapist will design exercises that strengthen your core muscles, helping you maintain proper posture and stability throughout your race. Most importantly, having a strong core can prevent injuries for runners. A weak core can place strain on muscles that are closer to the surface of the trunk of the body and this can lead to strain on the spine and eventually low back pain.[vi]
  3. Flexibility: Regular stretching routines can improve your range of motion, preventing muscle tightness and promoting better running mechanics. In fact, one study found that “biological aging results in reduced muscle force output, reduced joint flexibility, and alterations in running biomechanics.”[vii] It becomes increasingly important as we age to seek professional advice to help maintain strength and stability.
  4. Cross-Training: Physiotherapists may suggest cross-training activities like swimming or cycling to reduce the impact on your joints while maintaining cardiovascular fitness. Specifically, swimming was shown to significantly improve running performance.[viii]

You may also enjoy reading: Benefits of Walking

Injury Management

In the world of running, injuries are almost inevitable. Whether it’s a nagging ache or a more severe issue, a physiotherapist is an important part of injury management. Here’s how they can help:

  1. Prompt Diagnosis: Physiotherapists can accurately diagnose the root cause of your pain or injury, which is crucial for effective treatment.
  2. Treatment Modalities: They have a range of treatment modalities at their disposal, including manual therapy, ultrasound, and electrotherapy, which can speed up the healing process.
  3. Rehabilitation Exercises: Your physiotherapist will prescribe specific exercises to aid your recovery. These exercises are designed to strengthen injured muscles, improve flexibility, and prevent future problems.
  4. Training Modifications: If you’re in the midst of a training plan when an injury occurs, your physiotherapist can make necessary modifications to keep you on track for your race.

You may also enjoy reading: 9 Benefits of Running

Gait Analysis

Gait analysis is a critical aspect of physiotherapy in the assessment of runners. This process involves the observation and assessment of your running style and biomechanics. By analyzing your gait, physiotherapists can identify any irregularities that might be contributing to your injuries or impeding your performance.

  1. Running Efficiency: Gait analysis helps pinpoint areas where you might be expending unnecessary energy or putting undue stress on specific muscles or joints.
  2. Footwear Recommendations: Based on your gait analysis, your physiotherapist can recommend the most suitable running shoes to support your unique running style and biomechanics.

Together, gait analysis and the use of proper footwear for running can prevent common running injuries such as Achilles tendon injury, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints from occurring.[ix]

Race Day Preparation

As race day approaches, the focus shifts to recovery and maintenance. Physiotherapy for runners plays a crucial role in ensuring your body is primed for peak performance:

  1. Tapering Strategies: Your physiotherapist will work with you to create a tapering plan, gradually reducing your training volume to ensure you’re fresh and injury-free on race day.
  2. Massage and Soft Tissue Work: Regular massage therapy and soft tissue work can help alleviate muscle tension and reduce the risk of cramps during the race.
  3. Injury Prevention Strategies: Your physiotherapist may provide strategies to prevent common race-day issues like blisters, chafing, or cramping.
  4. Mental Preparation: Mental well-being is a significant factor in race performance. Physiotherapists often collaborate with sports psychologists to help you stay focused and manage pre-race jitters.

You may also enjoy reading: Winter Running Tips

Physiotherapy for Runners

In the running world, there is often a fine line between injury and peak performance on race day. Physiotherapy for runners can be the difference that keeps you on the right side of that line.

From pre-race assessments and personalized training plans to injury management, gait analysis, and race-day preparation, physiotherapy is a comprehensive approach to ensuring you’re race-ready.

If you’re gearing up for a running race, consider enlisting the support of a qualified physiotherapist. Their expertise can not only enhance your running performance but also prolong your running career by minimizing the risk of injuries.

Remember, a healthy body is a powerful one, and physiotherapy can help you unlock your full running potential. So, lace up those shoes, hit the pavement, and let physiotherapy be your secret weapon on the road to racing success.


[i] Running Biomechanics,

[ii] Running Biomechanics,

[iii] Anderson, O. (2013). Running science the ultimate nexus of knowledge and performance. Human Kinetics.

[iv] Videbæk, S., Bueno, A. M., Nielsen, R. O., & Rasmussen, S. (2015). Incidence of running-related injuries per 1000 h of running in different types of runners: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 45(7), 1017–1026.

[v] Damasceno, M. V., Lima-Silva, A. E., Pasqua, L. A., Tricoli, V., Duarte, M., Bishop, D. J., & Bertuzzi, R. (2015). Effects of resistance training on neuromuscular characteristics and pacing during 10-km running time trial. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(7), 1513–1522.

[vi] Raabe, M. E., & Chaudhari, A. M. W. (2018). Biomechanical consequences of running with deep core muscle weakness. Journal of Biomechanics, 67, 98–105.

[vii] Fukuchi, R. K., Stefanyshyn, D. J., Stirling, L., Duarte, M., & Ferber, R. (2014). Flexibility, muscle strength and running biomechanical adaptations in older runners. Clinical Biomechanics, 29(3), 304–310.

[viii] Foster, C., Hector, L. L., Welsh, R., Schrager, M., Green, M. A., & Snyder, A. C. (1995). Effects of specific versus cross-training on running performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 70(4), 367–372.

[ix] Young, F., Stuart, S., McNicol, R., Morris, R., Downs, C., Coleman, M., & Godfrey, A. (2023). Bespoke fuzzy logic design to automate a better understanding of running gait analysis. IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics, 27(5), 2178–2185.

Written by

Propel Physiotherapy
Propel PhysiotherapyIntegrated Healthcare Team
A special thanks to our coop student Alexander Georgiou from the Honours Life Sciences Co-op (B.Sc.) at McMaster University for helping us put together this blog post as part of his placement.



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