If I had a pound for every time someone said to me “all that running will ruin your knees”, my running shoes would be paid for for the next few years at least!

This isn’t the only running myth you will hear and, it is a myth! We take a look at a few more including some popular trail running misconceptions.

You need to stretch before you run

This is a myth that has been debunked by many studies. In fact, static stretching before running can actually increase your risk of injury. Instead, it’s better to warm up your muscles with dynamic stretches or a light jog. Dynamic stretches include heel flicks, high knees where you bring the knee up to the opposing elbow and side straddles. Crossovers are another popular dynamic stretch. If racing, we often include some quick strides as well to get your body used to the speed before you start your race. Static stretches are more suited to the end of the run.

Running is bad for your knees

As mentioned above, if I had a pound for every time I heard this, my running gear would be paid for. There is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, running can actually help to strengthen your knees and prevent injuries. Running itself, if done correctly and not to excess, is not the problem. It is poor form and overuse that is the issue.

I regularly run with those that are in their 70s and still going strong. In fact, as the Race Director of the Weston AC Prom Series, I have recently had to include an FV70 and MV70 category. I would say I have known of far more knee issues from footballers than I have from runners. Where injuries and more permanent damage have occurred, it is usually because runners persist in running on niggles and injuries that have turned into more serious issues. 

You need to run a certain pace to be a runner

Seriously? At my local club we have 6 different running groups on our Thursday night led runs which are organised according to pace. Group one is where you will find those that can run 5-6 minute miles and group 6 is for those that run between 12-14 minute miles. No-one is too slow to be classed as a runner. If you are undertaking the act of running, you are a runner. There is no such thing as a “runner’s pace.” Anyone who runs is a runner, regardless of their speed or distance.

You need to run every day to be in shape

I am sure there are members of the running community that believe, or at least convince themselves of this, or perhaps they run every day because they enjoy it so much but running every day is a sure fire way to increase the risk of injury. In fact, it is actually better to take rest days between runs. As a rule, I have always been a 4 day a week runner. This ranges from speed work to long runs. Any longer than this and I simply stop being able to function as I become too tired. Having a rest day is important to allow your muscles time to recover and to prevent injuries. In fact, the rest day, when your muscles are repairing and strengthening, is where the magic happens. 

You need to wear expensive running shoes to run well

This is not true. There are many affordable running shoes that can provide good support and cushioning. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on running shoes to be a good runner. Equally you can’t just put on any old trainer and run. I started off with a pair of trainers that cost £30. They were too small so I got squashed toes and lost a toenail. It wasn’t because the shoes cost £30 but because I didn’t go up a size. There are many of last season’s models that are much cheaper than the latest model and there are lots of brands that cater for all budgets too. Always worth shopping around to see what deals you can get. 

Don’t be intimidated by all those wearing the latest carbon plated Nike shoes on the start line – they are designed to make the speediest speedier but they aren’t going to make much difference to us mere mortals that aren’t going to be up there with Kipchoge and Hassan. 

You need to run a certain distance to see results

This is not true. You can see results from running even if you only run a few miles per week and the runs are 5ks. To be fair, a lot depends on the individual. I have friends that run 60+ miles a week and get incredible results but then there are those that run less than half that and still get the same results. It depends on the individual and the results you are looking for. When you are new to running, you will see more results and gains than you will a few years down the line when the improvements and gains are smaller. 

And on to our trail running myths…

Trail running will make you slow

Tried and tested and living proof that this is utter rubbish. After 3 years of running consistent trail running working towards ultras, where I was a lot slower than my road times, I got back on the road and trained for a marathon. I started slow and built up my speed – I had tonnes of endurance in my legs but I needed to be able to sustain a decent pace. This was the part I lost when running trails. I started with some speed sessions and a few fast 5ks and scored a PB within 8 weeks. After that I scored another couple of PBs including my illusive sub 1:45 half. I just needed to get used to running fast and flat again and the speed soon came. The endurance part was already there. I got bored of that quite quickly and went back to ultra training but I will no doubt have a crack at some road distances again at some point. 

Trail running is more dangerous than road running 

So, let’s look at this objectively. The trip hazards are possibly greater off road however, I have seen someone take a tumble on a road run on a path with tree roots while I have also seen someone come a cropper running downhill and tripping up a kerb. That’s not to mention the cars and bikes that you encounter when road running. In fact, I know of a runner that got knocked over less than half a mile from my house. That said, I fell over and cut my chin off road – it was dark, I did have a head torch on and I was running very fast down a rocky path! Should have known better. Then there are cows, brambles and stingers to consider. Overall, it’s all about how careful you are as a runner and how you cope with the terrain. There is danger everywhere, you just need to mitigate it. 

You need to know how to navigate trails 

Not true. I have discovered many beautiful routes by following way markers and tracks. Half the fun is in exploring however, we do refer you to our article on trail running safety to ensure that you don’t get lost, injured, stranded etc. I would advise that if you have no sense of direction whatsoever that you take a friend, or at least get yourself a GPS watch or an OS map. 

You need special running shoes

This is kind of a myth especially when you are trail running in the summer although it could be added to the list of non running myths on certain occasions. If the paths are dry and not rocky/slippy then road shoes are perfectly fine to run in. If the paths are rocky, muddy and uneven then trail shoes are recommended as they are designed to cope better with this type of terrain. 

So that’s ten of our running myths dispelled – we’d love to hear your favourites.