The high rate of running injuries makes focusing on prevention key. If you can prevent injuries, you’ll be able to run more consistently, reach a higher weekly mileage, and do more challenging workouts. In the long run, you will also ultimately be able to race a lot faster and for longer. With this in mind, we have put together 8 key ways to prevent running injuries.

8 Key Ways to Prevent Running Injuries

1. Training errors

Overloading tissues due to constant repetition of the running action. Watch your mileage, you should aim to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 5-10%. Include recovery days and cross train. Run on different routes and surfaces (including grass) to vary the repetitive nature and load on your body. You should also alternate between 2-3 pairs of different running shoes. Group runs are great for motivation, fun and company but ensure you can run at your pace within the group and don’t get dragged off on long, or hilly, runs if you are not ready.

2. Biomechanical factors

The way you run, or your running style is very relevant. We all know that some people look fantastic, while others look dreadful. However, how you look does not relate to how stressful or efficient your action is. Running style can be difficult or even impossible to change, so always consult a coach or a therapist with experience of working with runners.

3. Recovery time

Running places stresses on the body. If given adequate time to recover, these stresses will act as a stimulus causing the body to adapt in a positive manner, making it fitter and stronger. However, if there is inadequate time between training sessions, the body does not fully recover and minor damage to tissues can consequently develop into an injury.

4. Inadequate nutrition

Hard training causes depletion of muscle’s glycogen stores. Muscle glycogen is an essential fuel during strenuous exercise. The depletion of it causes fatigue and inhibits performance. If glycogen stores are not effectively replaced, you will start the next run in a semi-depleted state, causing potential fatigue and, therefore, increased injury risk. The same may also be true of dehydration and fluid replacement after exercise.

5. Muscle imbalances and weakness

This overlaps with posture and anatomical factors (such as having flat feet or knock knees). We adopt stressful postures daily, particularly when sitting. In doing so, muscle imbalances can develop. Static positions held for jobs may lead to an overdevelopment of some muscles, and underdevelopment of others. As a consequence, this creates imbalances between abnormally tight and shortened muscles, or weak and long ones. This will alter movement patterns, biomechanics and postural control, which can increase the potential for injury. A physical or manual therapist can be a great help in this situation.

6. Prior injury

One of the strongest risk factors for injury is a previous injury sustained during the past 12 months. Therefore, ideally, you would want to prevent the first injury from occurring. If this is not possible, then you should ensure that your injury is fully treated, healed and rehabilitated before you start a progressive return to running. In this way, the likelihood of becoming injured once again is reduced. Even if you don’t feel pain from the injury, you may need to continue your rehabilitation treatment for some time after it has healed.

7. Strength training

Weak muscles are more prone to injury and less resilient to the impact forces of running. When training, you should focus on fundamental strength exercises. For runners, single leg strength is key. When running, you are never on both feet at the same time. Each leg needs to be strong enough to absorb ground reaction forces. These forces are approximately 2.5 – 3 times your body weight during the landing phase.

8. Flexibility

Mobility, or range of motion, is key to a healthy body. Running causes scar tissue muscle adhesions to form. These can reduce your mobility and have a negative impact on your stride. A large proportion of non-traumatic running injuries stem from muscle tightness. As a knock on effect, this leads to restricted alterations in running gait.

For improved general strength, flexibility and stability, dynamic stretching exercises are great. You should look to do these on a daily basis, even on the days that you do not run. These exercises include leg swings, lunges and squats. These exercises can be incorporated into your daily routine. For example, when brushing your teeth, balance on one leg to improve core strength stability.

Use a foam roller regularly, and get regular massages if you can. Prioritise those especially tight trigger points to stay loose and supple. Remember to keep moving during the day. To do this, try stretching while sat at your desk, or keeping a tennis or golf ball in your drawer and roll out the soles of your feet while working.

More information and booking

If you would like know more about treatments for running injuries (and sports injuries in general), you will find more information in the sports injury medicine section on our website. In addition to this, we also offer Sports and Therapeutic massage and Reformer Pilates at our clinic in Putney. In conjunction with our colleagues at Yoga Mama, we also offer a variety of group mat-based stretch classes.