Looking for the best advice on what to do to prevent running injury? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s the truth. Overuse injuries can throw a wrench in your running plans like nothing else. These are usually joint, ligament, and muscle issues that plague the lower extremities.
And no one is immune—both beginner and elite runners are prone to injury. This makes them quite common, especially among those not taking steps to prevent them.
In fact, research shows that over half of all runners get injured, with many of those occurring in the knee, shins, or Achilles tendon.
But there are a few precautions you can take to help stack the odds in your favor. That’s where today’s post comes in handy.
How to Prevent Running Injury
Whether you’re a beginner runner training for your 1st 5K or a pro runner aiming for a sub-3 hour marathon, here are 9 nine things you can do to help reduce your risks of getting injured while running.
Know Your Limits
This is, by far, the cardinal rule for avoiding all kinds of sports injuries.
This is what’s commonly referred to as doing too much, too soon, too fast
Your body needs time to recover and adapt to increases in speed or mileage.
Push your body too much, and you will be flirting with disaster.
Take plenty of rest.
Make sure to add recovery days and weeks to your training plan by taking a complete break from training physically and mentally.
Take one day off a week, and space out those hard runs—think hill repeats and sprints—with some easier recovery runs.
During the off-time, cross-train with low-impact activities, such as swimming, low-intensity biking, or, my favorite, Yoga.
Especially Yin or Gentle yoga will help you decompress the stress inside your body, especially within the fascia tissue.
Use the 10 percent rule.
Don’t increase your running mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next.
Listen To Your Body
Overuse running injuries don’t happen overnight (falling flat on your face is the exception here, but we already discussed that).
Most running injuries come with early warning signs—discomfort, soreness, aches, and persistent pain—but it’s up to you to listen to them and take the right measures.
Have an early warning system for pain, and do your best to get to the root cause of what’s causing it.
At the first sign of onset, whether it’s a pain that gets worse during a run or forces you to change your running gait, take some days off and reevaluate your approach.
Don’t get me wrong, aches and running go hand in hand, but if the pain persists and/or it’s taking a toll on your body, you need to start paying attention.
In a nutshell, if your body hurts, do not run.
Regular strength training helps improve performance and protects against injury by improving your structural fitness.
This helps your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones to better endure the high-impact nature of running.
For instance, strengthening the hip muscles—mainly the adductors, abductors, and gluteus maximum—can boost leg stability to the ankles and prevent knee pain and injuries.
Strengthen your lower body muscles, especially your quads, glutes, and hip muscles.
Here are the runners-oriented strength routines you need:
- The Runner’s Muscle Imbalances Fix Routine
- The Leg-Strengthening Routine for Runners
- The Seven Best Strength Training Exercises For Runners
Stretch Your Body
Just like strength training, stretching is another off-road thing you can do to protect your body against common running injuries.
Current research finds no link between stretching and injury prevention, but I will bet my money on this, and I strongly urge you to boost your range of motion.
When you improve the range of motion of your running muscles, your body will move more efficiently and have less risk of injury.
Runners tend to be tights in the hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and glutes, so you are more likely to get injured in and around those areas.
Tight hamstrings can lead to knee pain and other trouble.
Tight calves are also bad since they have been linked to the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon injuries in research.
Lucky for you, I have written a lot about the subject, and here are three flexibility routines that can help stretch your running muscles and help you prevent injury in the process.
- The 7 Best Hamstrings Stretches For Runners
- The Yoga For Runners Guide
- 8 Standing Post-Run Stretches For Runners
As previously stated, when you got aching or painful joints or muscles, look no further than R.I.C.E for immediate treatment.
You don’t have an E.M.T. course certificate to do these simple steps.
For example, if your knee hurts, take a few days off from running (Rest).
Ice the painful area for 10 to 15 minutes, three to four times a day.
Plus, elevate the injured knee to limit swelling.
For more, you can also use compression, an A.C.E. bandage or compression socks, which can help reduce inflammation and provide instant pain relief.
Run on Proper Surfaces
Running on hard and/or uneven surfaces, like concrete or asphalt, puts undue stress on ligaments and joints.
And as a runner, the last thing you want is more impact.
Run often on hard surfaces, and you’ll be risking medial tibia stress syndrome, stress fractures, and other overuse injuries are very high.
Do the bulk of your running on softer surfaces, be it a path through the park, a dirt trail, a bike path, a grass road, and other similarly yielding surfaces.
You can also head to the local track for a more firm and flat surface.
Proper Running Shoes
I can’t emphasize this one enough.
Sure, running does not require a lot of equipment, but shoes are still a MUST.
So make sure to have the right pair on.
Head to a specialty-running store and have your gait and foot type analyzed by expert staff so they can help you pick the perfect pair.
It can be tricky for those with big feet or a big proportion of the front part.
Make sure to replace your running shoes at least every six months—that’s about 400 to 500 miles of running.
This, of course, depends on your weight, size, foot strike, shoe type, and weekly mileage.
The earliest warning of “wear and tear” shoes can take place on the heels part and big toe.
If you feel something not nice or sometimes you spot calluses in your heels, change.
Additional resource – How to treat black toenails from running
Proper Running Form
Poor form can limit your performance and lead to undue pain and injury, leading to shin splints, back pain, limited performance, and so on.
On the other hand, proper form will also help you run more efficiently, so you will run farther and faster with less fatigue.
Here are a few pointers to help you develop and keep good form:
- Run in a relaxed manner with the least tension possible. As you run, do your best to keep your entire body relaxed, especially your neck, shoulder, arms, and hands. Avoid clenching your fists, as this can lead to tightness in the arms, shoulders, and neck.
- Keep looking ahead. You should be gazing at the ground about 15 to 20 feet ahead of you. Never stare at your feet.
- Land on your midfoot. I used to be a heel striker, which limited me in many ways. Nonetheless, things changed for the best when I started consciously working on landing on the middle of my foot, then rolling through to the front of the toes.
- Point your feet straight head. Running with your feet pointed in or out could increase the risks of injuries, and it’s inefficient. So make sure to point your toes in the direction you want to go
Coping With A Running Injury
Already injured? Here’s how to make the most out of your recovery process.
Become a Student
Educating yourself about your injury and healing process is the ideal place to start your recovery journey.
Most running injuries are simple.
There are no big mysteries behind them; there’s always a reason why they happen.
By learning more about the symptoms, treatment, causes, and prevention of your condition, you’ll gain greater confidence and control over your current predicament, which helps ease any anxiety you’re going through.
Here are some of the questions you need to ask your healthcare professional.
- What’s the full diagnosis? What type of injury do I have?
- What made me injured in the first place?
- How long will recovery typically take?
- What are the red flags that the injury is getting worse?
- What are my treatment options?
- What’s the goal of treatments?
- What should I expect during the recovery period?
- What alternative exercises can I safely do during the rehab period?
- What can I do to prevent or fight off the inevitable weakness, stiffness, and lack of coordination that increases the risks of relapse?
Set Realistic Goals
Just because an injury sidelines you doesn’t mean you should stop setting goals.
The truth is proper goal-setting post-injury can help instill motivation and foster diligence as you start your recovery journey.
Setting goals grants you an active role in the recovery process, helping you increase self-confidence.
This also cuts your fear and anxiety by helping you focus on what can be done.
Once you have discussed the ins and outs of your injury with your doctor, set SMART goals, an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-focused, and Time-bound.
Here’s how to set SMART goals:
- Specific. Focus on a specific area with a clear map of how and why you’ll improve it.
- Be able to define clear and quantifiable outcomes, monitor progress, and set benchmarks.
- Make sure your running goal is possible and that you believe in yourself that you can do it. Go for goals that stretch you slightly but do not hinder your healing process.
- Result focused. Use your recovery targets to measure outcomes, not actions.
- Time-based. Set a date for when you want to achieve your goal with a progressive and practical sense of urgency.
Maintain Your Fitness
Getting injured doesn’t inherently equal sitting on the couch the whole day and doing nothing.
Sure, there may be a few days of true rest when recovering from a serious injury, but be sure to consult with your doctor for a list of cross-training options you can do.
I know it’s hard to keep working out when you’re injured, but stopping all physical training may do you more harm than good.
Inactivity may slow down your recovery and drastically lower your feel-good hormones, such as serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine, and drastically—setting you up for more trouble down the road.
Low-impact exercises such as swimming, yoga, deep water running, walking, or moderate strength training can substitute for running and help maintain cardiovascular power and sanity.
Just remember to take it slow and get your doctor, therapist, or trainer’s green light before you establish a good alternative workout program.
For a quick recovery, you need to heed your doctor’s instructions.
Show up for your treatments, rest, and keep track of your healing process.
But that’s not the whole story.
You also need to monitor your attitude—your emotional states and inner talk regarding your injury and the recovery process.
Work hard to keep a positive attitude to get the most out of your recovery process.
Stay focused on what you need (and can) do instead of what you’re missing out on.
I know it’s easier said than done, but keeping a positive attitude is key for a faster recovery.
Surround yourself with supportive people and encouraging items while repeating positive affirmations.
And keep in mind that things will eventually get better.
It’s just a question of time.
Here are more tips on how to increase your confidence.
How to Prevent Overuse Running Injuries – The Conclusion
The things I shared with you today should be enough to help you prevent running injuries. The key is to implement as many as possible. The rest is just details.
Now it’s up to you to take action and start training pain- and injury-free.
What’s not to like?
Do you have any favorite running tips?