Running is one of the most beloved and popular forms of exercise around the world. It’s a fantastic way to improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and stay in shape.
However, it can also be a high-impact activity that can take quite a toll on your body, especially if you don’t take proper precautions. As a result, injuries can occur in various forms and hinder you from reaching your exercise goals, potentially resulting in long-term complications.
When you consider that your feet have to absorb an impact force equivalent to several times your own body weight with each step, that’s perhaps not such a surprise that injuries can occur often. Fortunately, while you can’t always prevent an accidental injury, you can significantly reduce your risk by making smart choices about how you choose to run and train.
So fret not! This beginner’s guide will show you how to prevent running injuries and help you continue reaping the benefits of running for years to come.
Importance of Proper Running Technique
The first step to preventing running injuries is to develop proper running techniques. This includes focusing on your posture, stride, and foot placement.
Keep your shoulders relaxed and your head up, and maintain a slight forward lean when running. Also, make sure your feet land directly under your hips, not too far ahead or behind. This will help reduce the impact on your joints and minimize the risk of injury.
Selecting a Good Pair of Running Shoes
Next, make sure you invest in a good pair of running shoes. Choosing appropriate footwear is one of the most important decisions you can make when it comes to preventing running injuries.
Running shoes are specifically designed to provide support and cushioning to your feet, which can help reduce the impact on your joints. However, not all sports footwear is created equal, and choosing the right pair of shoes for your foot type, and running style is essential.
How Do I Know Which Shoes to Look For?
Now, some “hardcore” runners might tell you that you need to spend $100 or more on a pair of running shoes. That may or may not be true for you, but what we will say is that if you do plan to run a lot, it’s not worth it to cut corners to save a few bucks.
That doesn’t mean the most expensive shoe is always better; it just means that whatever running shoe you decide to buy, it should be a good match for your foot size and shape, your running style (overpronation, underpronation, etc.), and offer the cushioning and support your feet need. Poor quality shoes—or even “high quality” shoes that aren’t the right fit for your feet—will wear out quickly and tear up your feet in the process.
Visit a specialty running store, where a knowledgeable staff member can analyze your gait and recommend the best type of shoe for you. When selecting a shoe, pay attention to factors such as arch support, cushioning, and heel-to-toe drop.
Make sure to not forget about socks, either. Running socks should be comfortable and breathable, and wick moisture away from your feet. Avoid cotton—they absorb a ton of water and can cause blisters on an especially hot or wet day. Merino wool or synthetics like nylon, polyester, or spandex often make good choices.
Not sure what your pronation style is, or how to find the right fit? The staff at a specialty running store will often be able to point you in the right direction—or we can! More on that in a bit.
Replace Your Shoes When They Wear Out Without Delay
Even the best pair of running shoes will eventually wear out, and it’s crucial to replace them before they become too worn down. Running in worn-out shoes often leads to injuries such as shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
How to Tell if Your Shoes Need Replacing?
Pay attention to the wear patterns on the sole of your shoes. If the treads are worn down, it’s time to replace your shoes. You can also check for other signs of typical wear and tear, such as holes or rips in the upper part of the shoe. The midsoles (which you normally can’t see) will also gradually compress and lose their ability to provide shock absorption and springiness to your strides.
Once your shoes start getting up in mileage—and especially if you’re noticing more and more foot soreness during or after your run—it’s time to replace them.
Start Slow and Listen to What Your Body Says!
Another key to preventing running injuries is starting slowly and gradually increasing your mileage and intensity. This will give your body time to adjust to the demands of running and minimize the risk of injury.
One mistake many runners make is that they try to do too much, too fast. But running yourself until you’re winded, sore, and hurting all over isn’t going to get you to the promised land any faster. On the contrary, it will only significantly increase your odds of developing a serious injury.
(Not to mention, if you aren’t having any fun you’re more likely to quit entirely.)
You should always listen to your body. Rest when it’s telling you to rest. If something is painful to do, stop doing it! That is your body telling you that something isn’t working—and is going to get even worse if you don’t do something about it.
In addition, warming up before hitting the pavement is crucial. Taking a brisk five-minute walk before your run will get your heart pumping and help prevent injuries such as stress fractures and tendonitis. Also, don’t forget to stretch and warm up for about ten minutes before starting your run, and cool down with some walking afterward until your heart rate returns to normal.
Slowly Build Up Your Endurance
Begin by running for short distances and slowly increasing the duration and length of your runs. Remember to listen to your body, and don’t push yourself too hard too soon as this can lead to muscle strains.
The ideal running pace allows you to carry on a conversation at normal volume, without wheezing or panting. Now, if you’re a beginner and totally out of shape, you might reach this threshold even after a short period of slow jogging. Don’t be afraid to alternate between walking and jogging—even mostly walking!—if that’s what you need to do at first. Even for elite runners, training is about taking small steps.
As your fitness improves, you can go a little harder—but keep listening to your body, and don’t try to increase your intensity by more than 10 to 15 percent per week. It might seem slow at first, but you might be surprised at how quickly you can get from “non-runner” to “5K” to “on to the next challenge.”
Just stay positive and don’t push yourself too hard—you’ll get there!
Running in Cold Weather
Since this is Michigan and cold weather can hang around for a long time, we need to talk a bit about cold weather running as it does require a few additional considerations:
- Dress as if the weather were about 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it really is. You’ll also want to be layered with clothes that can wick moisture and vent air as your body heats up—zippers, technical fabrics, etc. You’ll also probably want to avoid running shoes that have too much mesh for the uppers.
- If running on snow or ice, shorten up your stride, slow down your pace, and wear a pair of trail running shoes with extra traction.
- Respect the wind. Bitterly cold winter winds are no fun, so do your best to avoid them. If you can’t do that, at least try running into the wind on the way out (when you have more energy and are less sweaty) and running with the wind on your way back.
- Warm-ups become even more important in winter conditions. Get your heart moving inside before venturing out for the run.
- If possible, run during the warmest and brightest time of the day—you’ll be more comfortable and more visible to traffic. If you run when it’s darker out, consider wearing high-visibility gear or even flashers.
- Don’t forget to drink lots of water. You still need to hydrate just as much in winter as you do in the summer.
- Change out of your running clothes quickly after you return home, especially if they get wet.
Check-in With a Podiatrist Before Starting a New Running Program
While we can give you the basics in a blog like this, it’s always a good idea to check in with a podiatrist like Dr. Bredeweg before beginning any new running program—especially if you’re a beginner.
No two feet are exactly the same, and everybody runs a little bit differently. The height of your arch, how much you pronate, your stride length, any existing foot conditions you might have – all these factors and more can influence how you run – and what injury risks you have.
At your check-up appointment, we’ll be able to give you more specific advice about preventative measures, what shoes to buy, best practices for stretching and warm-up, etc. We can even prescribe a pair of custom orthotics ideal for running if you need them.
Contact Us Today to Learn More
So there you have it! Running is undoubtedly an excellent way to enhance your health and maintain a fit body. However, taking precautionary steps to prevent injuries is crucial to keep you in top condition.
By following these beginner’s tips, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of running injuries and reap all the fantastic benefits running offers. If you have any questions or want further information on running and injury prevention, don’t hesitate to contact us today.
Moreover, if you’re experiencing any discomfort while running, it may indicate an underlying injury requiring prompt treatment. Don’t try to run through your pain, as it will only worsen the situation. Instead, give us a call right away so we can provide you with the help you need. Schedule an appointment with our experienced podiatrist today and get back on track to your running goals!