How to Prevent Running Injuries

Running has one of the highest injury rates of all sports. Use these tips to avoid getting sidelined with an injury

Credit: Flickr/ultraBobben

Up to 80% of runners get injured; don’t be one of them

Injury prevention is critical in a sport where a majority will eventually succumb to a running injury. Practice these easy strategies to avoid being sidelined

I recently presented a seminar on how to prevent running injuries. Since up to 80% of runners will get injured over their lifetime, injury prevention is a popular topic among the fleet of foot (and the not so fleet).

Evidence is Lacking on Causes of Running Injuries

Looking into the research literature is a bit depressing. For one thing, there’s little agreement on what even causes running overuse injuries. The two contributing factors for which there is a major consensus are weekly mileage and a previous running injury.

But when it comes to evidence for how to prevent injuries, the science is even more bleak. Injury prevention tactics such as stretching, strengthening exercises, a gradual build-up in training, matching running shoes to the shape of the foot and orthotics were ineffective in reducing injuries. 

However, the good news is that many of the studies that looked at these factors weren’t done with runners and had problems with bias or methodology. 

How to Prevent Running Injuries

Based on previous studies on injury prevention and my experience working with over 700 runners since 1999, I think there are a number of things you can do to lessen your risk of injury.

1. Have a thorough training plan

Include running at different paces and on different types of surfaces such as roads, grass and trails. Be flexible in your training and be willing to change your plan if needed. Record how you respond to training and listen to your body. 

2. Strength train

Every runner needs to include strength training in their program. Do two or three workouts each week. They don’t have to be long; be sure to include exercises for the legs, hips, upper body and core. (My runner’s workout DVDs only take about 30 minutes and can be done in your living room).

3. Work on your running form

If you have a history of running injuries, working on your running technique is especially relevant. Run tall, land softly and don’t land with an overly straight knee. Take a special clinic that teaches how to improve your running technique.

4. Train like an athlete

Warm up before your runs with drills and exercises that improve your coordination, agility and dynamic stability. Running drills like A and B skips are great examples of this.

5. Include recovery and proper nutrition

Exercise tears your body down and it’s during recovery that it adapts and builds back up. Don’t train hard all the time; include easy training days and one or two rest days into your program.

Poor nutrition can hamper recovery while good nutrition will allow you to train hard and recover. (If you want a template to eat better check out my sports nutrition workshop.)