9 Common Running Mistakes You Need to Avoid

5 min read Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis
Written by
Chris Zibutis
Head Running Coach - that one person on earth who loves interval runs 🥵

Pain can stop any runner cold in their tracks. And here’s a fun fact: pain usually comes from common running mistakes. Even seasoned runners will occasionally run into knee, back, or foot pain. 

What about you? As a running rookie, are you sure you know what you’re doing, or are you just winging it? There are tons of common running mistakes out there, and most are easy to make, but don’t quit just yet; most running mistakes are super easy to fix. 

So don’t sweat it! Improve your run and your health by avoiding the nine common running mistakes that most runners make below.

1. Bad Posture

Awful upper body form is quite common. You’ve probably seen it in other runners while you were out running. The other runner is either hunched forward or leaning too far ahead. Sounds familiar, right? Inevitably, this will make running that much more complicated, and you are probably doing it!

The Fix: Swinging your arms is often what causes poor posture. It can also make it harder (and less efficient) to breathe correctly. Instead, keep your arms at about waist height. Bend your elbows to about ninety degrees. Keep your shoulders down and back, and keep your head straight and level. And no looking at the ground unless the terrain is particularly rough! Keep those eyes straight ahead.

2. Wearing the Wrong Shoes or Clothing

Wearing the wrong type of shoes can cause more than just a bit of pain. You might develop chronic problems or suffer runners injuries, such as plantar fasciitis or shin splints. So, if your sneakers don’t feel comfy anymore, it’s time to toss them! 

Wearing uncomfortable clothing or heavy clothing is another similar mistake many beginners make.

The Fix: Ideally, you want to wear light clothing that wicks away moisture. Nylon fabric is always a great choice. Ensure you wear comfortable shoes tailored for the type of running you’re performing. It means investing in a good pair of long-distance sneakers if needed. Going into a shoe store and trying a few different sizes is ideal for making this decision. Plus, usually, there will be a shoe expert on hand to help you out.

3. Too Much, Too Soon

It’s exciting when you start a new activity, and you might want to train a lot at the very beginning. You feel good, so why shouldn’t you? Well, there are many reasons. You may end up burning out. Or worse, you might end up with common runner injuries, such as runner’s knee, shin splints, or ITB syndrome.

The Fix: go slow! Feel it out, especially when you’re first starting. Sure, running fast and far might feel great at first, but tomorrow, you might be unable to walk. Avoid increasing your mileage by more than 10% each week and ensure you take plenty of rest days in between long and intense runs.

4. Not Drinking Enough and Refueling Properly

Many new runners underestimate how much water they lose when running, especially on hot days. It’s super easy to do. 

You don’t want to drink too much because you don’t want it moving around in your stomach as you run, and you don’t want to drink too little and become dehydrated. Fluids can be confusing. And on top of all that, many new runners aren’t sure what they should eat before or after a run.

The Fix: Bring water with you while you run and take small sips. Also, experiment with food while training and find what works for you. Generally, you’ll want a mix of protein and carbs about 1–3 hours before your run and a similar combo within an hour after completing your run.

5. Over-striding or Under-striding

When running, your stride is everything. Maintaining an effective and sustainable pace is paramount to continued success. 

At first glance, overstriding (or understanding) won’t immediately affect your run. What it will do is increase your chance of injury by putting more force and pressure onto your joints and ligaments. The same goes for going too fast. Pushing your body to its limits will eventually result in overexertion or injury, both of which are bad for achieving long-term goals.

The Fix: Take your time and remember you aren’t racing anyone but yourself. Patience is key! This fix is primarily mental. You need to focus on your stride and speed and listen to what your body is telling you. Is your stride uncomfortable? Ease of the gas a little. Let your natural rhythm guide you. You will feel like your legs are getting carried away from you if you’re overstriding, and you will likely stumble or jam your knee if you’re understanding.

6. Ignoring Pain and Your Overall Health

Similar to the previous point, you don’t need to prove anything to anybody on your run. Running is for you, so listen to YOU. If something hurts or you feel something isn’t right, stop. At the very least, take it easy.

Pain is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong. “Pushing through it” will most likely lead to injury.

The Fix: When in pain, or doubt, or in sickness – take a break! Rest for a day, see how you feel, repeat. A day off now is better than two weeks off due to injury in the future. And please go to your doctor if the pain or wrong feeling persists.

7. No Cross Training or Doing the Same Thing Over and Over

You can have too much of a good thing when it comes to running. Simply put, too much focus and strength building in one area of the body leads to weaknesses in other areas. 

Yes, your legs do most of the work running, but you are not made of legs. It’s vital to balance which muscles you are working out to lead to more injury resistance and overall better health.

The Fix: Incorporate different types of physical activity into your weekly running routine. Drop a day or two of running and instead try weight lifting, swimming, cycling, basketball, or any other sport you like. Cross training benefits whole body health!

8. Going Too Fast and Not Pacing Yourself 

A common problem for a new runner is flying out of the gate too fast. You get too excited and burn all your energy in the first few minutes or miles, leaving little to run off of for the rest of the distance; this isn’t good. After all, you don’t want to (literally) crash and burn!

The Fix: Grab a watch that helps determine your pace as you run. Or at least start at a comfortable pace. Don’t push it, especially at the start. Leave that extra fuel for the finish line. Usually, practice makes perfect for this one. Yet, becoming more aware of what a comfortable running pace for you looks like can be a great starting point.

9. Breathing!

You can’t run with oxygen. Breathing clumsily can leave you with cramps as your muscles won’t get the oxygen they need to burn efficiently. “Sucking wind” will lead to a sucky run. Just breathing correctly, consistently, and evenly will dramatically improve your performance. Breathing is the foundation the rest of the body’s movement is built on.

The Fix: Breathe through your mouth and nose as you run. Focus on using your diaphragm to breathe. You shouldn’t just be expanding your chest but also your belly and exhale fully before taking in that next breath. This can help you become more efficient and less out of breath.

Key Takeaways

How to avoid common running mistakes and stay happy, healthy, and injury-free?

  • Watch your posture and know your stride.
  • Invest in proper footwear and clothing.
  • Avoid overtraining or “doing too much, too soon.”
  • Pace yourself properly, avoid sprinting out at the start, and don’t overdo it for miles.
  • Breathe easy and consistently through your belly and diaphragm.
  • Most importantly, have fun!

Start running today

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