7 Tips to Avoid a Running Injury

By: Dr. Sarah Rodriguez, PT, DPT.

With the fall season well underway and the crisp weather and autumn foliage at its peak, it’s no wonder that this time of year brings out the running itch and kicks the running season into high gear. After all, the air is finally cool and the excitement and energy surrounding the New York City Marathon are both palpable and contagious. In all five boroughs, runners are lacing up their sneakers and heading outdoors in an effort to start a new fitness routine, train for an upcoming race, or simply to savor the last few weeks of crisp fall weather before the dreaded winter begins. And every year, the fall season, unfortunately, brings with it an uptick in running injuries.

While running provides many physical benefits, both experienced and inexperienced runners may be prone to running injuries because of the repetitive nature of the exercise. The same muscles are constantly worked and stressed and without proper guidance and a comprehensive training routine, running can often lead to overuse injuries, muscle imbalances, poor body mechanics, sprains, strains, and even stress fractures if you’re not careful.

Here are a few tips to reduce your risk of a running injury:

  1. Change your sneakers often: Don’t let your sneakers run their course (pun intended). It’s time to get a new pair after you’ve run ~300-500 miles in the same pair of sneakers. If you’re not sure what type of sneaker works best for you, see a physical therapist for a thorough evaluation or visit a specialty running shop like JackRabbit or Super Runners Shop to get a proper fitting assessment. A pair of non-worn out, properly fitted sneakers can help you avoid a running injury.
  2. Cross-train: Mix in cross-training workouts such as cycling, swimming, and the elliptical into your routine in order to reduce your risk of injury and enhance your fitness levels by “shocking” and working your muscles in different ways
  3. Switch up your running surface: Running exclusively on concrete can take a toll on your joints because the hard surface provides less shock absorption and generates greater forces through your joints. Diversify your routine by running on dirt paths, treadmills, tracks, and softer, more forgiving surfaces whenever possible.
  4. Change the direction of your running loop path: Do you always run in the same direction in your nearest park loop? You might notice that there is a slanted slope on most running loops. If you run along the edge of the loop, the sloped incline will absorb shock in different ways through each leg and create asymmetrical forces generated through your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back. Try to change the direction of your runs on a regular basis or run on the flattest section of the loop, which is usually located in the middle and highest part of the running path.
  5. Run without music: I know, I know. This is a tough one, even for me. But often-times when we run with music, we tend to tune out and not really think about how our bodies are moving. By running without excess noise, we can stay present and focus more on our posture, breathing, stride, and running form.
  6. Rest: Don’t be afraid to take rest days! Listen to your body and give it the time it needs to recover when necessary. And never feel like you’re “missing out” on a workout. Rest and recovery are just as important for overall health and fitness.
  7. Strengthen key muscles: 5 simple exercises to strengthen important muscles (and that will help to prevent running injuries and enhance running form and efficiency) are: clamshells, bridges, planks, lateral band walks, and squats.

As Sir Isaac Newton used to say, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force.” Don’t let a running injury be that force. By following these seven tips, you can decrease your chances of a running injury and keep moving. However, if you do happen to get injured, reach out to your Physical Therapist. If you’re in our area, give us a call or fill out the form below.

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