Knee Kinesiography

Myth or reality? Running on trails increases the risk of knee injury.

Some urban runners claim that diversifying the type of running surface increases the risk of knee injury. This section will provide some important concepts to consider.

Training on a varied, irregular and relatively stable surface, the cross-country trail would modulate the impact on our joints. Recent studies have shown that this type of training would allow a wide variety of adaptive movements for the lower limbs. It would reduce the constant mechanical stress on a joint and thereby help limit the overuse of anatomical structures (muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, cartilages …).

As a result, no surface is more likely than another to cause injury. Everything is a question of adapting! Our body must be ready and adapt to a modification of its biomechanics. For example, if the environmental conditions (asphalt, sand, snow) change abruptly and quickly, the body cannot adapt adequately in response to this new stimulus, making it easier for the athlete to sustain an injury due to increased stress on the joints. We need to quantify our mechanical stress and gradually transition into a new sport. In order to minimize the risk of injury, it is in our best interest to prepare our body for future changes. To do this, it is essential to integrate the principles of progression: volume, intensity, altitude difference, surface and/or change of shoes. We should also subject our body to a training program that solicits new biomechanical (range of motion), physiological (muscle strength/flexibility) and neurophysiological (proprioception/motor control) factors.

Although fundamental, proprioception and motor control remain vague concepts for many runners. Let’s treat them as our sixth sense! It is they that modulate the deep sensitivity in our joints. Having a good proprioceptive system and motor control requires development and training like any other physiological element! It must, therefore, become automatic, in order to focus on other aspects such as performance and determination. 

In conclusion, we should always respect the adaptability of our body and quantify our mechanical stress. Although cross-country is an excellent running choice to gradually improve our training and maximize our performance, preparation is inevitable. Our body can adapt to everything, you just have to give it the chance to do it! In short, vary your training by modulating your duration, your intensity and your slopes (inclines/hills) without neglecting the proprioceptive training. Careful planning of the training will allow the runner to ward off injuries and attain the necessary adaptations. This way, you can avoid unpleasant and unexpected injuries and get closer to the desired goal.