Last week: (static) stretching plays less of a role in performance and injury prevention than we think, but old habits are hard to change.
So then - what do?
Q: If performance enhancement and injury prevention are the goals, and stretching ain't getting it done, what should be done instead?
A:The beautiful marriage of mobility & strength followed by a progressive activation of the muscles you're about to use - aka proper warm-up.
Mobility: foam rolling, soft tissue work, active release technique, those things. They can be great at locally increasing blood flow and increasing range of motion. This time - without the decrease in power output (performance) that's seen with static stretching.*
Strength: when it comes to preventing injury, there's literally nothing better than getting strong
Really. Strength protects, strength gets results. Don't skip leg day.
Eccentrically loading a muscle (lengthening a muscle under force) is a great way to 1) increase range of motion, 2) strengthen, 3) activate (↑ blood flow, ↑neural drive) the muscle before exercise.
Before your next run, try some soft tissue mobility followed by 1-2 rounds of strength. Save the stretching for after, if you've done all of your other strength & mobility work first.
*Magnusson (2002) 2x :45 sec stretch had no significant effect
Source: To stretch or not to stretch: the role of stretching in injury prevention and performance. McHugh MP, Cosgrave CH.