Preventing injuries while on a running program is important for beginners and advanced trainees alike. Running is a high-impact activity, so some injury-risk is always going to be present. Most of us run to be able to run faster, longer, and more efficiently, meaning we are pushing our bodies regularly. Let’s talk about some injury prevention techniques that can go a long way.
Why Do I Keep Getting Running Injuries?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I run on uneven surfaces?
- Do I run in perfectly-fitting running shoes?
- Do I push myself to run further and/or faster?
- Do I sometimes skip warm-ups and cool-downs?
- Do I run exclusively instead of cross-training?
- Do I skip flexibility and mobility training often?
- Do I lack a regular recovery routine?
- Do I go all-out regularly instead of following a periodized running program?
Answering yes to any of these questions means you are at risk for a running injury.
What Is the Most Common Injury in Runners?
A condition known as runner’s knee is the most common affliction in runners. However, there is a large number of injuries that happen regularly, as seen in this study.
While runner’s knee is the most common, there are quite a few that frequently occur, including:
- Plantar fasciitis
- IT band syndrome
- Shin splints
- Hamstring strains
- Ankle injuries (rolls, sprains)
- Stress fractures
- Ingrown toenails
While you can’t mitigate injury risk 100%, there are steps to take to reduce the chance of occurrence for many of these common ailments.
How Do You Prevent Injury While Running?
Recall the questions that were mentioned earlier. Do what you need to change your answer from “yes” to “no,” and you have mitigated running injury risks to a great extent.
Here is the overview of the best practices:
- Run on shock-absorbing surfaces that are even.
- Get custom-fitted running shoes. Inserts work if shoes aren’t an option.
- Use progressive overload at planned times instead of trying to get a PR every session.
- Properly warm up and cool down every time.
- Cross-train with strength, power, and muscular endurance exercise, ensuring to perform movements in all planes for better overall balance in your body.
- Prioritize mobility and flexibility training.
- Develop a personalized recovery routine after particularly tough sessions or weeks.
- Periodize your training program to balance recovery and progress.
Doing all of these will keep you injury-free for the most part, outside of accidents that can happen to even the most-prepared runners.
How Can You Prevent Common Running and Walking Injuries?
Following the section above is good advice to reduce common running and walking injuries and more serious injuries. If you take the big-picture view of your running progress, you’ll see that pushing yourself over and over will lead to burn-out and/or injury.
A minuscule amount of progress each session won’t feel like overexertion, but it will amount to huge progress when applied over time.
Pace yourself, take your recovery seriously and follow a level-headed running program specific to your goals and fitness level if you want to reduce the risk of injury.
How Do You Prevent Injury While Running Long Distance?
Running high mileage is different than running a mile or two. The increased time under tension for your bones, muscles, and connective tissue raises the risk for injury substantially. However, the same rules still apply to high mileage runners.
If you are preparing for a long-distance competition, you need to always remember to be training, not testing. Your running session in preparation for your race event aren’t where you want to be setting PRs, as you might peak too early, push too hard, and injure yourself before you ever reach the starting line.
Building up to high mileage slowly, giving yourself ample time to periodize your running program, and peaking for a race will help reduce the chance of risk with high mileage training.
Think of a long-distance runner as a professional athlete while someone who is trying to run a 5K is a recreational athlete.
The pro will put in more effort in their program design, recovery, nutrition, and gear than the recreational athlete to perform better and reduce injury occurrence.
The techniques to reduce the risk of injury are the same, but the necessary effort for high-mileage runners to utilize will be much higher than a recreational runner who just wants to get in better shape.
Should I Run Through Pain?
Remember that big-picture view we talked about earlier? Let’s examine it again for the question of whether or not to run through pain.
If you stop a run short because of pain, you might miss out on a 1% increase in your running ability and fitness levels than if you were to finish that session. However, you stopped a more serious injury, and after a few days rest, you are good as new and can resume running. That 1% sacrifice doesn’t ruin the big picture.
However, if you choose to run through the pain because 1% is more than 0%, you risk a more serious injury in the process that can sideline you for weeks to months. That chance of a 1% gain in running ability costs you 20–40% now because you can’t even run until the injury is healed.
Don’t run through pain for the sake of garnering that session’s benefits. An injury is bound to happen when you ignore your body’s signals. Stop the run and rest until you feel 100%!
- Many runners will get injured at some point during their training, but you can take steps to reduce the risk of occurrence and severity.
- Runner’s knee is the most common running injury, but there are many more that are quite common as well.
- Never run through the pain; the risk-to-reward ratio is way too low.