No one wants an injury, particularly runners. Not being able to run because of an injury is highly frustrating. The good news is, so many running injuries can be avoided very easily.
Sports Therapist, Tom, shares some top ways of helping to prevent an injury if you’re a runner.
Warm Up Effectively
A solid warm up should consist of foam rolling (which can improve performance), mobility work to maximise joint health and longevity, dynamic stretching and muscle activation to fire up the key players in running (calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes). Running backwards is a great way of activating your glutes which play a huge role in stabilising the hips and promoting good form when running forwards. Read more about warming up here.
Know your run. If you’re heading out on a new route, make sure you know the terrain, any obstacles, gradients or side-planes and are equipped for the specific weather and conditions that you’re running in.
Increase mileage safely and run with proper form. There are so many resources now online to help guide and direct your training in a ‘smart’ way. This is crucial to preventing injuries if you’re serious about progressing your running. Joining a running club or group is a great way to get guidance and support too.
Beginners should avoid increasing their mileage every week. Instead try every 3-4 weeks. Add an extra day into your running week to increase your weekly mileage. Advanced runners should increase their mileage by 5-10% of their current mileage and remain there until they’re comfortable. This may take several weeks. Injury can occur easily if you ramp up your speed or mileage too quickly. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!
If you’ve been injury free for a long time and you aren’t looking to shave seconds off of your PB, I wouldn’t advise you to alter your running form. However, if you have an injury and a gait analysis suggests you would benefit from altering your form, it would make sense to address this issue. Try to reduce your stride length so that you plant the foot with a vertical shin, this will reduce the forces transmitted through your legs and limit any deceleration from planting your foot too far forward. Also, try to maintain space between the knees. Allowing the thigh to internally rotate or drop in when you run can lead to overuse injuries occurring at the hip, knee and foot. If you need expert advice and guidance on this, consider something like our running rehab service.
Ensure that you wear a comfortable shoe that fits well. Rubbing and blisters can put an end to anybody’s run. Don’t be tempted to buy the shoes that look the nicest, fashion won’t help keep you injury free. If you have low arches, find a shoe that supports you in the areas that you need it. Seek professional advice from a reputable running shop where you can try the shoes and they have video gait analysis. Read more about the importance of getting your footwear right here.
Strength Work Between Runs
A stronger kinetic chain will decrease ground reaction forces (GRF), making running more comfortable and more efficient. Working on your core stability will promote the transfer of forces from your upper and lower limbs, meaning less work for your legs. Strong glutes will stabilise your hips and prevent poor biomechanical loading from occurring. Pilates is a great way to help this.
Balance & Proprioception
Proprioception is your body’s awareness of where it is in space – so your joints and brain and muscles all talking to each other! Along with balance, it’s a crucial component to keeping you injury free. It enables your body to cope and respond to uneven terrain, pot holes and curbs and varied weather conditions. Both are very trainable with the right exercises.
If you’ve ever sprained an ankle and haven’t undergone a rehabilitation programme, the chances of you re-spraining that same ankle are very high. After an injury your ankle suffers from a loss of proprioceptive ability and strength, which needs to be rebuilt with balance, proprioception and strength work. If you’re lucky enough to have never sprained an ankle but enjoy running both on and off road, lower limb stability with balance and proprioception work should be a part of your regular gym routine.
Catching Minor Injuries In The Early Stages (Recognition & Treatment)
Being able to recognise the early stages of injury will allow you to nip them in the bud before they become an issue. Examples include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, patella tendinopathy, ITB syndrome and muscle strains. As soon as any signs or symptoms are noticed, your best option is to consult an injury specialist. We all know what muscle soreness (DOMS) feels like. If it’s a different pain, don’t run through it.
Cool Down Correctly
Exercise causes our muscles to break down on a microscopic level, which can lead to muscle shortening if left untreated. Stretching after running will help maintain the resting length of your muscles and prevent any imbalances from occurring. Sports massage is a great way of helping recover too. A sports massage will help flush out any lactic acid and waste products left sitting in your muscles following exercise, as well as promote the flow of nutrient-rich blood to those areas to facilitate healing and decrease recovery times.
Sleep is very important when talking about injury prevention in runners. When you sleep, hormones are released that promote recovery. When you don’t get enough sleep, stress hormones and inflammatory markers remain elevated which adversely affects your ability to recover. These hormones can also alter appetite regulation, potentially leading to weight gain. To remain injury-free, you need to sleep and recover to the best of your ability. Establish good habits by going to and getting out of bed at the same time each day, and try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night as a minimum, 8 hours is great.