5 Essential Rules to Prevent Running Injuries
Posted by Jenn F. on Monday, February 15th, 2016
A review of literature published last year found that for every 1,000 hours of running, there were 17.8 injuries, particularly among novice and recreational runners. Further research revealed numerous risk factors for injury, including running on concrete surfaces, marathon training, weekly distances of 30+ miles, wearing the same shoes for 4-6 months, and past history of injuries. Yet what does all that tell us about preventing running injuries?
The sports medicine doctors at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine are consultants for the NY Road Runners Club and the Central Park Track Club as well as official race-day podiatrists for the Hamptons and NYC marathons. While every case is unique, here are five rules of to prevent running injuries that apply to almost everyone.
1. Don’t ignore the pain.
Remember the slogan “No pain, no gain?” This awful saying has led to many a running injury. Most running injuries to the feet and ankles don’t hit you like the Achilles tendon rupture freight train. More often, they begin as nagging aches that become persistent soreness even during sedentary times. Sometimes the soreness escalates to stabbing pain, which is when most people seek professional help. By then, what could have been cured with a couple days of rest and some ice now requires more advanced and expensive therapies and weeks of recovery.
We recommend taking three days off running at the first sign of discomfort that worsens as you run or alters your gait in some way. During that time, you can swim or cycle to maintain your fitness, but do not run. When you resume running, take half your mileage and a leisurely pace — like an eleven-minute mile rather than the usual nine. Give yourself another day off, followed by another easy workout, perhaps increasing your speed by one minute per mile. If you’re pain-free, ease back into your routine. If not, go another three days without running and repeat the process. Still hurting? Seek professional advice.
Recommended Reading: Why Gait Analysis Is a Must for Serious Runners
2. Shorten your running stride.
A December 2009 study found that a 10 percent decrease in stride length could reduce the risk of tibial stress fractures by 3-6 percent. While that may not seem like a lot, a number of runners who have come to our gait analysis center have reported lower pain, improved function, and better running times once they learned to shorten their stride slightly. More foot strikes mean reduced load impact. Most people are confused as to what a “10% reduction” looks like, so we recommend coming into our gait analysis center where we can use computers and a treadmill to show you how to adjust your biomechanics.
Recommended Reading: Finding Support on the Long Road of Running Injury Recovery
3. Strengthen your body with weights.
Many runners are cardio-crazy and forget to hit the weight room. However, to keep your body in proper alignment, you’ll need strong core muscles, hip abductors, hip adductors, glutes, and calves. Through these exercises, you strengthen and stabilize the leg all the way down to the ankle. Two days a week, you should focus on achieving greater muscle balance and symmetry.
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4. Do more than just ice.
Every runner knows to ice an aching muscle or joint for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day using frozen vegetables or a baggie filled with ice cubes. However, we find a lot of people ignore the rest of the conventional wisdom — which is rest, compression, and elevation. Ice will take down your inflammation, but you also need time to heal. Elevate your injury while you ice — above the heart level — to limit swelling. Reduce pain and inflammation further by wearing an ACE bandage or a 3M Coban compression dressing. A walking boot is even better for serious injuries where you need to allow increased blood flow to the region.
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5. Know thyself.
One of the commonalities in the runners we treat is that they tend to take on too much work all at once. They’re usually following some type of training program they read about online, or they’re just winging it based on what they feel they should be able to accomplish. For each run, they simply hit the road and keep going until they can’t go any longer.
Injury thresholds commonly occur at 11, 25, and 40 miles per week. The best advice we can give is to increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week. So if you run ten miles your first week of training, do no more than eleven the next week, and twelve the week after. Keep a detailed training log to help you identify pain patterns and adjust your numbers accordingly.
If you’re a bit rusty in your training, you may find that the conventional wisdom is still a bit much — and that’s perfectly okay! The Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary advocates increasing mileage by just 3% a week. If you’re coming back from injury, take your time and don’t try to “catch up.”
Get professional help for NYC running injuries at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offices in Manhattan and Westchester.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. 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.