Music, time and running with a mature black man looking at his watch while out for a fitness run in the park. Workout, wellness and training with a senior male athlete or runner tracking his health.

Running Injury Prevention Strategies

Every runner will suffer an injury, pain, or imbalance at some point, but that doesn’t have to stop you from hitting the pavement. Proper form and strength training can prevent running injuries and improve your performance, form, and control.

We work with experienced runners daily and see countless shin splints, ACL issues, stress fractures, pulled muscles, and random aches and pains. While our end goal is to get you feeling fantastic and running your best with no pain, it’s ideal to avoid these injuries in the first place – and proper planning can help. All runners should take the following injury-prevention strategies into account.

6 Safe Running Strategies for Injury Prevention

1. Wear Appropriate Running Shoes

Before even stepping on the pavement or track, you’ll want to make sure you have proper shoes that fit well and provide enough support. Wearing worn-out shoes or shoes not designed for running can cause ankle pain, heel pain, and other common running injuries. If you plan on running for a long time, you should invest in a pair of running shoes that will allow you to do just that. Most running shoe specialty stores will help you try on shoes and even let you test them out before making a purchase.

2. Start Right

Warm up with a brisk walk or running drills, and begin the more rigorous parts of your workout as your muscles begin to feel activated. If you’re just starting a running regimen, your routine should include stretching after running. Dynamic stretches help loosen up your muscles and joints, making them more flexible and less prone to injury. 

3. Identify Weakness

Every runner has some type of inefficiency in their form. It may be subtle, but finding those issues will uncover opportunities to make the body stronger and ready for a more strenuous training program. Physical therapists can identify these weak points through a running gait analysis. By watching you run on a treadmill and examining your alignment, we can see where you need to strengthen muscles, adjust form, improve your shoe wear, or reduce impact to become a more efficient runner. When runners can see a knee drift inward, they can visualize the correction and activate muscles to offset the poor form.

There are a few areas any non-injured runner can target to run more efficiently. Endurance runners may have underdeveloped hamstrings, so targeting the hamstrings with strengthening exercises may help. In addition, a single-leg balance or single-leg squat is a low-impact exercise that pushes the body to build strength, balance, and coordination in the muscle groups most used while running. Strength training is an effective way to build strength and stability in your underdeveloped muscles. Other exercises, such as lunges and planks can help strengthen your legs, hips, and core which can be problematic areas for runners. 

4. Cross Training

Starting a new running program? That’s great, but be careful because novice runners will have to adjust to the impact on their joints. A beginner shouldn’t start with 5 to 7 runs each week. Instead, replace several of these runs with biking, swimming, or time on the elliptical. Cross training builds cardiovascular endurance and strength without stressing the joints too much too soon.

5. Increase Intensity Gradually

Gradually increasing your mileage or intensity is essential for preventing overuse injuries. Avoid increasing your mileage by more than 10% per week and make sure to take rest days in between runs. This will give your body time to recover and adapt to the demands of running. This guideline should also help prevent any overuse injury.

6. Big-Picture Training

Running shouldn’t be the end of your exercise regimen. Strength training programs with a licensed physical therapist can improve your running. Strength in your core and hips, flexibility, and coordination all factor into your performance, so make improving these areas part of the training plan, too. Whether you devote hours each week to running or occasionally run to maintain a basic level of fitness, a physical therapist can make sure you do so safely.

We’re Here to Help

If you are experiencing shin splints, foot or ankle pain, knee pain, sprains, muscle imbalance, or any other type of pain when running, contact us today so we can take a look at your form and set up a running program specifically for you. Find a clinic near you, and get in touch with us today!

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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