IT Band & Trail Running

I worked out for the first time this year on Monday. I ran about a mile. My last run before that was about 15 miles on the streets of California in December while spending the Christmas break with my parents. It was then that I started having a tingling, electrical, prickly sensation on the outside of my left knee, slightly below the joint. Actually I started having it a month or so before that, but it was getting a lot stronger while I was in California.

The feeling never quite turned into pain, but it was a strange enough sensation that I looked into it. As soon as I did a few searches online it became obvious I was having an IT band issue. I won’t go into what the IT band is or what it does–other websites have done that in detail. Treatment consists of rest, stretching, and strengthening. I got pretty good at the first one, and did a horrible job on the other two. I have a hard time stretching and strengthening while also resting.

Every time I wanted to start running again, I’d think “But if I start running I’m just going to have that issue flare up again, and then what do I do?” I felt like if I just went back to what I was doing before, I’d end up right back where I was and then it would get worse and turn into a real injury rather than a minor prickly feeling.

Then last Saturday I had a conversation with a buddy of mine who is into trail running. He said he had IT band issues too, but now he does trail running and he doesn’t. Bingo. While this isn’t the most scientific recipe for a cure, perhaps, it’s something different, and I’m going to give it a try. It makes sense to me that it might help. After all, many injuries are caused by identical movement repeated over and over, which is what you get when you run in an unnatural environment such as roads or paved trails like I do. Trail running means lots of not just up and down, but side to side or lateral movement, meaning no two steps are alike, your legs are getting exercised in different ways every time you take a new step, and your joints aren’t subject to much of the highly repetitive movement compared to running on trails or the road. And running on dirt is softer than cement or asphalt.

So I’m going to make myself the subject of an experiment and try it out. I’ve also been in touch with the folks at Altra and am hoping to get a pair or two of shoes to try out with my new focus on trail running. This should be interesting.

  • Alan

    Good luck with that… I’ve been battling IT band issues for two years since I had a big crash on my mountain bike. I’ve finally found a resource in the last two months who is helping me with Graston procedures and deep tissue work. There’s no shortcut. Just don’t make it worse by neglecting it.

  • http://www.thoughtlab.com Sam Poulter

    My dad has had IT band issues for a while, now. I’ll have to let him know that there’s a solution out there, even though he is pretty lazy these days. If he thinks he can get rid of the pain then he may just give it a shot.