7 Best Ways to Prevent a Running Injury

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If you’re a runner, you know how frustrating an injury can be. Unfortunately, runners are susceptible to a slew of them, including shin splints, plantar fasciitis and all sorts of knee problems. But here are seven tips that could keep you from getting hurt.

Invest in a good pair of shoes

When purchasing running shoes, go to a specialty store where the salespeople are runners themselves. They can observe the way you run, discuss your running goals and help you find a pair of shoes that will work best for you. Running in shoes with too little or too much support can result in anything from blisters and sore feet to muscle imbalances and injury. And be sure to replace your shoes every 300 to 500 miles.

Work on your form

Your cadence, or the number of steps you take per minute, should be around 180 steps per minute (for both feet), according to most expert runners. Your foot should land underneath your hips, and you should run with your back straight and leaning slightly forward at the waist. You should talk to a specialist before considering changing the way you run, in order to ensure an injury-free transition.

Know how to stretch

Before running it is best to do some dynamic stretches, such as walking lunges and leg swings. Static stretches (holding a position for 30 seconds or longer) are best for after running. After a long run (15  miles or more), it is best to save your stretching for later in the day, as doing so immediately you're done can turn small muscle tears from the workout into large tears and cause significant damage.

Increase mileage slowly

Running too much too quickly can result in many overuse injuries, such as runner’s knee, Achilles tendonitis and shin splints. A good rule of thumb is to increase mileage by no more than 5 to 10 percent from week to week because the body needs time to adapt to training changes. If you begin to experience any pain, reduce mileage until the pain subsides and slowly build back up (key word: slowly).

Vary your running

You can reduce risk of injury by incorporating more variety into your running routine. Mix up the terrain by running on roads, trails, grass and sidewalks. Vary your pace by alternating slow, easy days with higher-intensity, faster-paced runs. Varying your running will also help prevent you from becoming bored, which will help you stay motivated.

Do strength and cross- training

While running is a great workout, failing to do other types of exercise is a surefire way to get hurt down the road. Do strength training for your upper body, lower body and core two to three times a week. It is also a good idea to incorporate cross-training, such as biking or swimming, in order to improve your muscle balance while maintaining your overall fitness.

Recover properly

Proactive recovery means working to prevent damage and allowing your body to recover and adapt after a hard workout. Reactive recovery methods are used as a way to manage existing damage and include ice baths, wearing compression socks and using a foam roller. If you go out for a run and notice a sharp or stabbing pain, stop running until the pain subsides.