Any runner knows just how devastating a running injury can be. When you run, and love running, not being able to run, or even not being able to run at full capacity is really, really difficult. It throws your training regimen off, it slows you down...everything is just all off and wrong.
All of us, myself included, would just rather avoid injuries altogether. Sometimes they’re totally unavoidable because of freak accidents, but those are, of course, rare occurrences. For your average runner, avoiding a running injury should be relatively simple. But you would be surprised how easily it happens without even knowing it! In fact, statistics say that 65-75% of runners experience at least 1 injury every year!
Here’s how to run, train, and go the distance while, as much as possible, avoiding injury.
Top Tips for Avoiding Injury for Runners
Wear the Right Shoes
Now, some people will insist you need to go out and buy $250 running shoes or you’re doing it wrong. I’m not that guy. You can find good running shoes at a variety of price points. But you do need to make sure your shoes fit your foot and are right for the kind of running that you want to do.
I recommend looking at Runner’s World’s Shoe Finder to help discover the right shoe for your feet and your run. They have reviews, comparison tools, and filtering functions to help you find what you’re looking for.
Warm Up Before You Run
How many of us are guilty of skipping warm ups and getting right into the run? Yikes. That’s an injury waiting to happen. It’s something that we all know we should do, but we don’t always do it. We have to get our muscles warm, elastic, and primed to run! Start every run with good stretches and even a good warm-up walk. Even if it’s just a few lunges, do it! Make it a habit. You greatly reduce your chances of injury if you warm-up.
Find Your Stride
One of the biggest causes of running injury is overstriding. It’s when your foot falls beyond a certain point relative to the center of your mass. Most runners overstride without realizing it, and a running coach can help you identify if you’re doing it or not. This can cause injury mostly because it puts stress and strain on your body: namely, your back, hips, and especially your knees. It causes your impact to be much higher with every stride.
The two primary ways to correct overstriding are to increase your cadence (step rate) and to decrease the amount of cushion in your shoe at the heel.
Listen to Your Body
Most athletes have a hard time with taking a break. We want to hit milestones, conquer challenges, and get stronger. We don’t like resting. But as runners, if we want to prevent injury, we’ve got to listen to our bodies and start learning when we need to stop. That might mean taking a break. Maybe stopping mid-run, or not running at all when you know you’ve pushed yourself too far.
Do we like it? No. But taking a day off is a lot better than having to take weeks off because of an injury.
Mix It Up
A lot of runners decide to switch to running off road to save their bodies some strain. And it’s true, running on grass, dirt, or any “soft” surface does decrease the strain of impact on your body compared to running on asphalt and “hard” surfaces. However, science also says that your body actually adapts to different surfaces over time. It doesn’t actually help you all that much if you keep running on the same kind of turf over and over again.
If you’re used to running on pavement, you know that it can be straining, even unforgiving on the body. Grass absorbs a lot of that impact. But you also are dealing with unevenness and other dangers: you could roll an ankle or trip!
And if your races aren’t off-road, you need to be running on the pavement so that your body will be conditioned to handle it. Just allow yourself to get a break once in awhile—physically and mentally—on a variety of terrains.
Here’s to injury-free running in 2017!