As crazy as it sounds—and looks—the increasingly popular sport of backward running is not only fun to do, it can even relieve leg pain.
Backward running exerts 24% less stress on the knees than forward running because runners land on the forefoot—a softer motion than heel running, a study out of the U.K.’s Cardiff U. found.
Paulien Roos, Ph.D., the study’s co-author, recommends backward running as a rehabilitation tool for people experiencing pain in the front of the knee.
Former collegiate runner Brian Godsey got into backward running in 2004 to cure a twinge in his knee; when the pain disappeared, he went into it competitively.
“It’s absurd,” he says of adults sprinting backward around a track. But that hasn’t stopped him: He ran a reverse 5K in a record 19:31 at the backward-running world championships in Germany in 2008.
Ready to rewind your run? Find an area clear of tripping hazards, or have a spotter run forward next to you, Godsey says. Be sure to land on your toes, and occasionally switch the shoulder you look over so you don’t strain your neck.
Note: Running backward on a treadmill isn’t advised, as you can’t control the speed or hit the kill switch if you fall.