How to Enjoy Your Time on the Trails Safely
Due to COVID-19, most of us have been spending ample time indoors lately, practicing social distancing and quarantining.
However, as restrictions let up, outdoor activities have become one of the safest, go-to ways to enjoy our free time!
There are an abundance of outdoor activities to choose from, depending on the geography in your area. One activity that has great appeal is trail running.
Trail running is running in nature-based settings on unpaved surfaces, such as in hills and mountains. It can provide a much more challenging course and interesting scenery as compared to running on roads or treadmills.
While trail running may be more stimulating than traditional running, its rugged terrain can make runners more prone to injuries. However, fear of injury should not stop you from enjoying this fun pastime.
Instead, educate yourself on common injuries and prevention techniques, as well as important trail running safety tips, so you can best prepare yourself for the unpredictable journey ahead.
Common Trail Running Injuries
To practice proper trail running safety, you first need to learn about the different injuries you are most at risk for sustaining, and then understand how to best prevent and treat them.
Cuts, Abrasions, and Lacerations
When running on rugged terrain with unpredictable obstacles, trips and stumbles are common occurrences. Unfortunately, sometimes runners trip and fall on hard or jagged surfaces, causing cuts, abrasions, and lacerations.
Cuts refer to a surface-level skin wound where the connective tissue is separated, but
not missing. Abrasions are wounds caused by scraping and friction, where a layer (or layers) of skin is removed. Lacerations are jagged, torn, surface-level skin wounds that vary in depth, size, and severity.
Prevention and Care Tips
To prevent these injuries from happening, it is best to stay focused on your foot placement and concentrate on the path. On a trail run, it is normal to become both mentally and physically tired. This is when your focus begins to wane, and injury is most likely to occur.
If you notice this happening, it is best to stop, drink water, rest, and/or walk the rest of the course.
If a cut, abrasion, and/or laceration is sustained, you should immediately rinse the wound with soap and water and cover with a bandage to decrease the chances of infection. If no soap is immediately available to you, rinse the wound with drinking-quality water.
If there are pieces of trail stuck in the wound, such as dirt, rock, wood, and/or leaves, remove as much as you can without aggravating the wound. The more foreign elements that remain in the wound, the greater the chance of infection.
Sprains, Strains, and Tendinitis
Sprains are a stretch and/or tear of a ligament (the strong band of connective tissue that connects one end of a bone to another). Strains are a stretch and/or tear to a muscle or tendon. Tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bones. Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon or tendon covering (sheath).
Although these soft-tissue injuries can occur almost anywhere on the body, the ankle is the most common location when trail running due to the uneven, rugged paths. Achilles tendinitis is one of the most common forms of tendonitis among runners, which is inflammation in the heel and back of the ankle.
Prevention and Care Tips
Like the prevention method listed above for cuts, abrasions, and lacerations, it is best to remain alert and focused on your footing and the trail, and if you feel a depletion in any of these traits, stop, rest, hydrate, and/or walk the rest of the way home if necessary.
If a sprain, strain, or tendinitis do occur in the midst of your trail run, you should tape the injury with some athletic tape. Properly taping the injury can help provide support and stabilize the injury so that you are able to walk home (depending on the injury’s severity).
When taping, it is recommended that you use three J-shaped strips around the ankle and a couple of supporting strips around the affected leg.
Plantar Fasciitis and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury caused by the irritation and inflammation of the plantar fascia (the strong band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot), usually due to too much pressure. Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as “runner’s knee,” is a broad term used to describe when nerves sense pain in soft tissues and bones surrounding the patella (kneecap).
Prevention and Care Tips
Aside from practicing the trail running safety tips mentioned above, prevention also means ensuring you are wearing proper running equipment, such as well-fitted running sneakers that provide ample support, and form-fitting clothing that cannot get caught on unnoticed snags.
To care for these injuries and ensure they don’t get worse or reoccur, it is important to rest, refrain from overexerting the affected areas, and slowly ease back into trail running. Perhaps begin with running on paved, even roads, and then graduate to walking on trails. The key is to let your injuries fully heal before working them again. Your doctor will be able to create a customized recovery and care plan for you depending on your injury and individual needs.
Trail Running Safety Made Easy With EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region
The Sports Medicine Specialists at EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region are experts on trail running safety. Through years of practice and education, our board-certified, fellowship-trained team have gained a masterful understanding of running-related injuries, treatments, and prevention techniques, and are standing by to help Triangle Region patients enjoy their outdoor activities safely.
To learn more, schedule an appointment now. Or, call us any time at (919) 220-5255.