Your core may not be the first area of the body you would identify as important in preventing lower-body injuries, but when properly conditioned, this center of strength and balance can go a long way toward protecting feet and ankles while running.
“When someone comes into therapy because of chronic Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis, we look at the ankle and the foot, but we also want to look further up the chain at how the hip relates to the pelvis and lower back to see if there’s weakness in those areas,” says Michelle Sine, a physical therapist who specializes in the foot and ankle at Tidelands Health Rehabilitation Services at The Market Common.
When muscles of the core (the abdomen, chest and back, and peripherally, the hips and glutes) are weak, the body often compensates by adjusting knee and ankle movement.
“A lot of times, weakness in the hip abductors will lead to a gait pattern that puts too much stress on the inside of the ankle or the Achilles tendon,” says Sine.
It’s typically when running long distances that lack of core strength becomes problematic.
“As you increase your mileage, you’re more likely to get fatigue in these smaller postural muscles that really leads to a breakdown in your running mechanics and makes you susceptible to injuries of the foot or ankle,” Sine explains. “Strengthening these areas can help.”
Fortunately, there are a number of simple, at-home core exercises that are ideal for runners.