The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

9 Easy Ways to Avoid Foot and Ankle Running Injuries

Posted by on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

If you ask me (and you just did, didn’t you?), running is one of the greatest forms of exercise out there. Why? Well, you basically just need some shoes and you’re ready to go. No trip to the gym, no making sure you signed up for the class you want with the teacher you want, no need to join a league (although many people have a lot of fun with running clubs).  No, just you and the road, the park, or the track at your local high school.

However, running can be hard on your body, especially your feet, ankles, and lower legs. If you run steadily and don’t get injured, report right now to a major university or science center so your body can be studied and marveled at. More likely, though, you’ll find yourself injured now and then. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to cut down on the severity and frequency of injuries you suffer.

  1. Wear the right shoes for your foot Find out what kind of runner you are and choose shoes for your type. If you over pronate or roll inwards, or over supinate, or roll outwards, then you can find running shoes that will help give you support so you don’t pick up all the injuries that come with those issues. You can tell what kind of foot you have pretty easily just by looking at shoes you wear a lot–if there appears to be excess wear on the inside edge of the sole, you over pronate; if the outside edge is noticeably more worn, than you over supinate. If you’re not sure, a sales clerk at any good quality running shoe store should be able to help you and show you some shoes to match your foot type.
  2. Make sure your shoes fit Your ideal running shoes will likely not be the same size as your regular shoes, so don’t go into a store fixated on a specific size. Always wear the type of socks you plan to wear when running when trying on new shoes, and shop at the end of the day when your feet are most swollen. According to Runner’s World, you should make sure that the widest part of your foot, the ball or forefoot, lines up exactly with the widest part of the shoe. If that fits, the rest of the shoe will fit well, too.
  3. Don’t over wear shoes While many people are advocates for running barefoot, running in worn down to nothing shoes isn’t the same thing. Worn out shoes don’t offer your feet any protection and can contribute to overuse injuries. Most shoes usually have about 300-400 miles on them, but your best guide is how you feel and how worn your shoes look (meaning, “Is there a hole in them?”).I know, though, that running shoes are expensive and sometimes your shoes wear out right when you can least afford it, so here’s a tip: if you know a brand, model, and size that works for you, look on eBay. You can often find the shoes you want, new in the box, for as much as half off what you would pay in a store. They’re usually overstock, discontinued shoes, or shoes with tiny imperfections like the wrong color stitching.  This has helped me out a lot when my shoes wore down at the wrong financial time.
  4. Don’t over wear yourself Many running injuries are overuse injuries that come from running every day the same way. Take a day or two a week to do some cross-training, like biking or swimming if that’s possible for you. If you can let yourself (and I know this is hard for runners) take a whole day off and just let your muscles repair themselves. If you must stay active, try going for a good walk instead.
  5. Change it up If you do insist on running every day (look, I run and I know nothing will stop some of us, I mean, you), at least change what you do so you can work different muscles while giving some other ones a break. Do sprints one day, a long slow run another, some hill running every so often. Try running on different surfaces; you’d be surprised how much that can affect all the tiny little muscles in your body as they adjust to the different terrains.
  6. Don’t take too big a leap Not a leap across a puddle, but a leap in your training. If you run two miles one day and think that felt pretty good, don’t increase your mileage to six miles the next day. You’ll wear yourself out, make yourself vulnerable to injury, and possibly become discouraged if it doesn’t go well. The general rule is to increase your mileage 10% a week for a safe, strong build up.
  7. Run on the right surfaces Speaking of terrains, some are a lot easier on your body than others. Grass, trails, and dirt paths are the surfaces that are kindest to your feet, while concrete sidewalks, asphalt paths, and yes, treadmills, are typically considered the worst.
  8. Stay alert Do you want to know a really easy way to sprain or fracture an ankle? Become completely absorbed in your cell phone, ipod, or conversation with your running buddy. No matter how well you think you may know a path or trail, rocks, cracks, or wet leaves are bound to pop up (not to mention a similarly distracted runner coming from the opposite direction). It’s okay to listen to music or whatever you like while you’re running but make sure you are keeping an eye on what’s below and ahead of you.
  9. If it hurts, stop Yes, stop. Pain is your body’s way of saying, “Help!” If something hurts when you run, stop and take a break for a day or two. If it doesn’t seem to be getting better, then you should see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine ( 212.996.1900 ) to find out what’s going on and how you can make it better.

Happy running and stay healthy!

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.