4 Ways To Prevent Common Running Injuries

By:    Published: October 12, 2011

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Runners run for many different reasons: to get in shape, relieve stress, or simply because they love it. Whatever the reason for getting off the couch and hitting the road may be, one thing will always remain certain: a runner doesn't want to limit their running experience because of an injury. Injuries are quite common in the running world and they can be prevented as long as the right steps are taken.

1. Find the Right Shoe

What makes running so easy is that it's a fairly simple task: step outside of the house with a pair of running shoes and take off. Since there is only one real piece of equipment for running, it should make it that much easier to invest in the right shoe. The proper shoe can equate to an enjoyable running experience, while an improper shoe can result in injury or pain during the run.

  • Know your foot: The easiest way to pick the right shoe is to match the correct shape of the foot to the shape of the shoe. A basic shoe store may only have a standard shape that might not fit every runner's foot.
  • Go to an expert: A trip to a local running shoe store can usually fix the problem of finding the best shaped shoe for each individual runner. These stores tend to have professionals who are trained to pick the right shoe for a runner based on his/her foot type and running stride. This step is the best way to prevent any injuries from developing with the wrong shoe.

2. Knowing Limitations

Overuse injuries are common with runners. The simple reason for this is that runners start running long distances too soon and too often.

  • Start small: There should be a gradual increase in miles traveled instead of a dramatic acceleration from day to day. A major increase in miles ran can cause overuse injuries such as shin splints, runner's knee and plantar fasciitis. Start with smaller distances, and slowly work your way up.
  • Keep a runner's log: A log will help track the amount of miles that are being run. A good rule of thumb is to stay under 45 miles per week. A running planner will help ensure that the common 45 mile limit is being held as well as tracking your progress over the year. This should also help track a gradual increase in distance ran, instead of sudden increases and decreases in mileage. If injuries arise, you can look back on your planner to see what went wrong and how to design a better running plan.

3. Develop a Dynamic Warm Up

The days of static stretching before warms ups are over, but that doesn't mean there can't be some type of warm-up that takes its place. A runner's body should be warm before starting an intense run; otherwise injuries can creep up on a runner. A dynamic warm up will help increase oxygen and blood flow to the body in order to prepare it for a hard run. This warm-up will also allow the muscles to become elastic, which will help prevent injuries and soreness that you may experience after a hard run. This dynamic warm up could include:

  • Jogging
  • Knee raises
  • Butt kickers
  • Back peddling
  • Shuffling

These warm up routines can be done at different intervals until the body feels warm and the runner is ready. Whether the warm up is five minutes or two minutes long, it can be very beneficial and may decrease the chance of injury.

4. Watch the Surface

The surface that a runner chooses to run on is crucial in preventing injuries. The benefits of stepping outside the door and taking off for a run can also result in an injury that sidelines a runner. You should look for a soft, flat and forgiving surface when deciding where you should take your daily run. Good surfaces to run on include:

  • Grass fields: Grass fields are great because they're soft and forgiving to the joints, but make sure to watch out for any holes or uneven surfaces.
  • Dirt roads: Dirt roads are also extremely beneficial, granted that they are flat, because they're soft and easy on the body.
  • Asphalt roads: Asphalt roads work well, but aren't as effective as grass and dirt. They are usually sufficient as a running surface because of the generally even surface they provide.
  • Artificial surfaces: Technology improves everyday on artificial surfaces, which are what many high school tracks are made of. These surfaces are meant for running and are built to prevent injury. The downside of an artificial track is it tends to be boring for long distances.

Surfaces that aren't good for runners include:

  • Uneven surfaces: Uneven surfaces put a lot of stress on the body and can increase injuries. These surfaces can include the beach and forest or canyon trails. The sand on the beach is great because of how soft it is, but the problem with running on the beach is that it's usually very uneven which makes it hard on the body. Uneven surfaces are commonly found on forest or canyon trails, which makes running on them also tough on the body.
  • Concrete: Concrete is probably one of the worst surfaces that runners commonly use. They are extremely unforgiving and if continuous miles are logged on them, they can often lead to injury.
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