Running injuries are extremely common among runners of all experience levels. Some statistics estimate that as many as 90 percent of runners miss training time due to an injury each year.
The underlying causes of running injuries, however, aren’t entirely clear. Many experts suggest running injuries — such as shin splints, knee injuries and ankle injuries — are the result of overtraining. Putting in mile after mile without taking time to cross train or allow your body to rest can increase your risk of injury.
Excess body weight, over-striding, quality of running shoes, weak or unstable hips, running barefoot or running on unstable surfaces may also be to blame for common running injuries.
A new study, published in December in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, concludes that the force of pounding and how a runner lands on the foot may further explain the commonality of running injuries. Researchers tracked 249 female runners — each of whom strike the ground with their heels when they run, rather than the middle or front of the foot — for two years.
During the two-year period, only 21 runners did not become injured, nor had these runners suffered a prior injury. When scientists compared the impact loading of these runners compared to the others, they found that runners who avoided injuries landed far more lightly on their heels than the runners who were injured.
How to prevent running injuries
Spring is just around the corner, and that means it’s training time for spring races. Before you hit the pavement, take some time to review these tips to help ensure an injury-free running season.
Land softly. Consciously think about a soft landing. If you have a history of running injuries, try landing closer to the middle of your foot rather than the heel.
Increase cadence. By slightly increasing the number of steps you take per minute, you can reduce the amount of pounding with each stride. Think about running over eggshells or water.
Work with a coach. If you are new to running, work with a running coach who can help you improve form and tailor a training program suited to you.
Slowly increase distance. As you work up to your race distance, slowly increase the distance you run while training each week. Increase the distance in your training regimen no more than 10 percent per week.
Take time off. Rest days are just as important as training days. Running creates micro-traumas in the muscles, and without rest days, those micro-traumas don’t have time to heal, which may result in a more serious injury.
Eat well and stay hydrated. Take care of your body by giving it the nutrients and water it needs to stay healthy. A registered dietitian can help you develop an eating plan to suit your training program.
Stretch when warm. Stretching cold muscles may actually increase your risk of injury. Take five to 10 minutes before your workout to warm up, followed by active stretching.
Strength train. Any proper workout plan includes strength training to increase muscle strength and stability. Strong leg muscles will better support your joints and help keep your joints aligned. Focus on muscles in the hips and legs, as well as your core strength.
Most importantly, listen to your body. Nobody knows your body better than you. If you think you may be nearing an injury, take some time to rest. If pain or soreness is persistent, see your doctor.
Not all injuries can be prevented, but these tips can help you avoid common running injuries caused by overuse or excessive pounding.