Running can be hard on the body, but for many, the physical and mental health benefits far outweigh the potential risks. From shin splints and stress fractures to hamstring issues and Achilles tendonitis, these nine tips can help you prevent the most common running injuries.
- Invest in proper footwear: Don’t make the mistake of letting sticker shock deter you from investing in proper footwear. It’s best to visit a specialty running store to help you achieve the best fit for your individual body and needs. You should have a little wiggle room around the toes while your foot fits snug in the heel. It’s also equally important to maintain your running shoes. Avid runners should replace their shoes around every six months or every 400-600 miles.
- Find the right surface: High-quality, properly-fitting running shoes will only get you so far. If possible, avoid running on concrete. Instead, opt for surfaces that absorb the shock rather than passing it along to your legs. If you can’t find grass, dirt trails or a rubberized running track, even asphalt is a better alternative. But, keep in mind that a sudden change in the running surface can also cause injury so transition over time versus all at once.
- Stretch it out: This may be obvious, but hands down one of the best ways to prevent any injury to the body are to keep it loose and limber. The more flexible you are, the better your range of motion and the less likely you are to get injured. Stretch both before and after your run. You may also want to consider taking up yoga on the days that you don’t run to further improve your flexibility and balance.
- Consider strength training: Maybe you’re a runner because you don’t like traditional gym workouts, but the stronger your muscles are the better they are able to support your joints. Added benefits of strength training include improved muscle tone, endurance and bone density. If the gym isn’t your thing, you can lift weights at home or use everyday household objects to help you build muscle.
- Take your time: If your goal is to run a 10K but the furthest you’ve run is around the block, don’t expect to run six miles right out of the gate. There’s no harm in taking it slow, especially when you’re starting out. In fact, starting with shorter runs and gradually increasing your distance over the course of several weeks is the best way to prevent running injuries.
- Posture matters: When you’re running, it’s easy to think about your legs and feet. But, it’s also important to pay close attention to your upper body. Get in the habit of checking your posture every so often throughout your run. Are you staying upright with your shoulders back and relaxed? If not, raise your shoulders to your ears then drop them back down to a relaxed position. This can help you avoid lower back, neck and shoulder pain, as well as improve your breathing.
- Keep your head up: Maintaining your form is critical to preventing running injuries, and this includes your head positioning. Too far forward and you’ll experience neck and back pain, too far back and you may strain your neck muscles. Keep your head in line with your shoulders and hips.
- Don’t forget to rest: If you aren’t feeling 100%, consider skipping your run. Sure there are some days where you’ll have to talk yourself into getting out of bed for your morning run when the temperatures cool down or maybe you stayed out too late the night before. But, what we’re talking about here is listening to your body when it’s telling you it needs a break. Taking time off each week can help you avoid the most common running injuries and prevent the fatigue that occurs when you push your body too hard, too fast.
- Ask an expert: If you think your running form could use some help or you need advice about best practices to train for a race, consider reaching out to a professional. Your physician can refer you to a physical therapist who can help you avoid or recover from injury.
Contact Paris Orthopedics
Maintaining an active lifestyle is important, but with it also comes the risk of suffering from a condition as a result of injury, disease, or the normal process of aging, disuse, or overuse.
Despite all of your best efforts to avoid them, the bottom line is that injuries can still happen–especially with the overuse and repetitive motion that occurs with frequent running. If you are experiencing chronic pain or injured yourself while running, schedule an appointment with Paris Orthopedic today. Our team of experts specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of running-related injuries and conditions including knee ligament and tendon tears, ACL injuries, tendonitis, meniscus injuries and more.