A recent article in a sports medicine journal has reviewed the literature regarding the impact of stretching on the performance and injury risk of long-distance runners (anything over 5Km). They concluded that stretching poses no significant advantage to endurance runners and in some cases can reduce running economy and performance for up to 1 hour if stretching is done prior to exercise. They also found that stretching did not appear to have any effect on the longevity and intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Unfortunately endurance runners are prone to overuse injuries such as iliotibial band syndrome, stress fractures and plantar fasciitis and the research indicates that stretching does not reduce the prevalence of these injuries.
The key to many endurance sports is to ensure that you take rest days, only increase your distance by a maximum of 10% per week, eat healthily, strengthen key muscles for your sport by undertaking strength and conditioning exercises. Also, getting a regular MOT from your chiropractor can also help to ensure that any minor injury is dealt with.
The reality is that most of us will probably to continue to stretch after a run and I still advise patients with chronically tight muscles to do this. What is important however, is to realise that you shouldn’t stretch prior to exercise. It is far better to do a ‘warm up’.