I haven’t had a running injury (knock on wood) for several years now and I attribute it mostly to learning from past mistakes and following these simple injury prevention strategies:
1. Wear the right shoes.
Finding the right pair of running shoes is one of the most important (and easiest!) steps you can take to prevent running injuries. Wearing the wrong shoes for your feet and running style can aggravate existing problems, causing pain in your feet, legs, knees or hips. Even just making sure you’re wearing the correct size (should be at least 1/2 size bigger than your street shoe size) can prevent issues such as black toenails and blisters. Go to a specialty running shop where you can be properly fitted for running shoes, and replace them every 400-500 miles.
2. Vary your running surfaces.
To give your joints and legs a break, do some of your runs on grass, dirt trails, and synthetic or dirt running tracks. Constantly running on concrete can lead to shin splints and other overuse injuries. Also be careful to run on a level surface. Running on a cambered (slanted) road can lead to overpronation on one foot, which can eventually cause an injury.
Although the treadmill may not be your favorite surface for running, it’s perfect for balanced and more cushioned running. It’s a great option especially for new runners, those who are coming back from an injury, or runners who are doing very high weekly mileage
Regular strength training helps to keep your body properly aligned and more injury-resistant. Strong core and hip muscles are the key to preventing many common running injuries, including knee injuries. You don’t need to do intense strengthening workouts and build huge muscle mass to prevent injuries. Doing core, hip, and lower-leg strength training two to three times a week will help you develop muscle balance, stability, and proper alignment of your hips and legs.
4. Ramp up slowly.
One of the most common causes of running injuries is doing too much, too soon, too quickly. Increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week. Beginners and those who’ve been injury-prone in the past should run every other day. You can use those off days in between to recover or cross train. Doing activities other than running, such as cycling, swimming, or yoga, allows you to build your fitness and strength, while giving your running muscles and joints a break.
5. Listen to your body.
Most running injuries develop over time and send some warning signals, such as aches, consistent pain, and soreness. It’s up to you to pay attention to these warning signs and take action. If you feel pain that doesn’t go away after you warm-up, don’t push through your run – you’ll only make your injury worse, or cause another injury due to overcompensation. Try RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) self-treatment and visit a doctor if you don’t see much improvement after about a week off from running.
6. Use injury prevention tools.
There are plenty of things runners can do to prevent a minor ache or pain from turning into a full-blown running injury. Icing a sore spot with an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas for 10 to 15 minutes after a long run can make a big difference. If you’re feeling pain on the bottom of your foot, freeze a water bottle and roll your foot on top of it. You can use massage tools such as a foam roller, the Stick, or even a tennis ball to roll out any areas that feel tight post-run.
7. Don’t get complacent.
Running injuries often come back so, once you’re injury-free, don’t be tempted to do things like not warm up, neglect stretching, stop massaging with your foam roller, or skip other strategies that help ward off injuries.