What Can You Do to Prevent Running Injuries?

Dr. Courtney Conley (DC, BS’s in Kinesiology & Human Biology)


Importance of Preventing Running Injuries

Running is a popular form of exercise that offers numerous physical and mental health benefits. However, like all exercise when it’s done with improper form, it also carries the risk of sustaining injuries, which can hinder progress and cause pain and frustration. That's why understanding how to prevent running injuries is crucial for runners of all levels. By taking proactive measures, you can minimize the risk of injuries and enjoy a safe and sustainable running routine.

In this article, we will delve into the topic of running injury prevention and provide you with valuable insights and practical tips to help you avoid common pitfalls. We will explore the different types of running injuries, their causes, and risk factors to create awareness and understanding. Additionally, we will discuss preventive measures you can implement to minimize the likelihood of sustaining injuries while running.

Remember, the key to successful running is not only performance but also longevity. Let's explore the world of running injury prevention together and ensure that your running journey remains enjoyable, fulfilling, and injury-free.

Understanding Running Injuries

Common Types of Running Injuries

  • Shin Splints:
    • Description: Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, cause pain along the shinbone (tibia).
    • Causes: Overuse and repetitive stress on the shinbone, often due to sudden changes in intensity, running on hard surfaces, or wearing worn-out footwear.
    • Risk Factors: Runners with high arches, flat feet, or muscle imbalances are more susceptible to shin splints.
    • Often seen with runners that overstride with a heavy heel strike.  


  • Runner's Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome):
    • Description: Runner's knee refers to pain in the front of the knee, around or behind the kneecap (patella).
    • Causes: Misalignment of the patella, muscle imbalances, overpronation, or inadequate strength in the hip and core muscles.
    • Risk Factors: Runners who have weak quadriceps muscles, tight hamstrings, or a history of knee problems are at a higher risk of developing a runner's knee.


  • Achilles Tendinitis:
    • Description: Achilles tendinitis involves inflammation and pain in the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
    • Causes: Overuse, sudden increases in training intensity or distance, inadequate calf muscle flexibility, or improper running footwear.
    • Risk Factors: Runners with tight calf muscles, excessive pronation, or a history of previous Achilles tendon issues are more prone to Achilles tendinitis.
Running Injuries
  • Plantar Fasciitis:
    • Description: Plantar fasciitis causes pain and inflammation in the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot.
    • Causes: Overuse, poor foot biomechanics, inadequate arch support, tight calf muscles, or excessive running on hard surfaces.
    • Risk Factors: Runners with flat feet, high arches, or tight calf muscles are more susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis.


  • IT Band Syndrome:
    • Description: IT band syndrome refers to inflammation and irritation of the iliotibial band, a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the outside of the thigh.
    • Causes: Overuse, improper running mechanics, muscle imbalances, or running on uneven surfaces.
    • Risk Factors: Runners with weak hip muscles, excessive pronation, or a sudden increase in training volume are at a higher risk of IT band syndrome.

Causes and Risk Factors of Running Injuries

  • Overuse and Repetitive Stress:
    • Running beyond the body's capacity without adequate rest and recovery can lead to overuse injuries.
    • Repeated stress on the muscles, tendons, and bones without sufficient time for repair and adaptation increases the risk of injury.


  • Improper Footwear:
    • Wearing shoes that don’t allow sufficient toe space or provide too much cushioning and support can lead to weakened foot structure and then injury.
    • Shoes that are worn-out and running style can exacerbate biomechanical issues.


  • Inadequate Warm-up or Cool-down:
    • Skipping warm-up exercises or neglecting to cool down properly can increase the risk of muscle imbalances and injuries.
    • A proper warm-up prepares the body for the physical demands of running while cooling down allows for a gradual recovery.


  • Training Errors:
    • Rapidly increasing mileage, intensity, or duration of training without allowing the body to adapt can lead to injuries.
    • Inadequate cross-training, improper technique, or lack of variety in training can also contribute to running injuries.


  • Biomechanical Imbalances:
    • Individual factors such as poor running form, muscle weaknesses, imbalances, or structural abnormalities can contribute to biomechanical imbalances. These imbalances can disrupt the natural alignment and function of the feet, leading to increased stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and joints.

Preventive Measures for Running Injuries

Warm-up and Cool-down

  • Importance of Dynamic Stretching:
    • Engage in dynamic stretching exercises to warm up the muscles and increase the range of motion.
    • Dynamic stretches involve controlled movements that mimic running motions, such as leg swings, walking lunges, and high knees.


  • Incorporating Mobility Exercises:
    • Perform mobility exercises to improve joint mobility and flexibility, targeting areas prone to tightness or imbalances.
    • Focus on exercises that address the hips, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and ankles, promoting proper running mechanics.
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Proper Footwear and Equipment


  • Choosing the Right Running Shoes:
    • Select running shoes that allow your foot to strengthen and remain mobile based on your foot type, gait, and running style is crucial (you can see our recommendations here).


  • Considering Orthotics or Inserts for a short-term intervention:
    • If you have specific foot issues or imbalances, consult a podiatrist or sports medicine professional to determine if orthotics or shoe inserts may be beneficial to support you as you strengthen your feet in other ways.
    • Orthotics can help modify load and provide additional support during running as a short-term intervention.

Training Techniques and Progression

  • Gradual Increase in Mileage and Intensity:
    • Follow a structured training plan that gradually increases mileage and intensity to allow your body to adapt and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
    • Avoid sudden spikes in training volume and prioritize incremental progress.


    • Incorporate cross-training activities, such as strength training, swimming, cycling, or yoga, to enhance overall fitness, strengthen supporting muscles, and prevent muscle imbalances.
    • Ensure you are ALSO training your feet to be mobile and strong! We recommend our 12-week Fit Feet Program for feet that keep you pain-free throughout your running career. 
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Running Form and Technique

  • Maintaining Proper Running Posture:
    • Focus on an upright posture with a slight forward lean, engaging the core muscles for stability and efficient movement.
    • Avoid excessive leaning forward or backward, as it can strain the muscles and lead to injuries.


  • Optimizing Stride Length and Cadence:
    • Strive for a comfortable stride length and aim for a higher cadence (steps per minute) to reduce the impact on your joints and minimize the risk of overstriding.


  • Foot Strike Patterns and Impact Reduction:
    • Experiment with different foot strike patterns (forefoot, midfoot, or heel) to find what feels most natural and reduces impact.
    • Consider running on softer surfaces whenever possible to decrease the stress on your joints.
    • Did you know our clinicians at Gait Happens can do virtual running gait assessments?  You can book one here. And, if you are local to Colorado, you can also visit Total Health Solutions or Kinetic Chiropractic for treatment.  

Rest and Recovery

  • Listening to Your Body:
    • Pay attention to any signs of fatigue, pain, or discomfort during and after running.
    • If you experience persistent pain or symptoms of an injury, seek medical advice and allow proper recovery time.


  • Incorporating Rest Days and Active Recovery:
    • Include scheduled rest days in your training plan to give your body time to recover and repair.
    • Engage in active recovery activities like gentle stretching, foam rolling, or low-impact exercises on rest days to promote circulation and aid in muscle recovery.


  • Importance of Sleep and Nutrition:
    • Prioritize sufficient sleep to support overall recovery, tissue repair, and hormone regulation.
    • Maintain a well-balanced diet, emphasizing nutrient-dense foods, to provide the energy and nutrients needed for optimal performance and recovery.

By implementing these preventive measures, you can reduce the risk of running injuries and enjoy a safe and fulfilling running experience.

Injury Prevention Strategies

Recognizing Early Signs of Injury

  • Pain or Discomfort:
    • Pay attention to any unusual pain or discomfort during or after running, especially if it persists or worsens over time.
    • Recognize the difference between normal muscle soreness and pain that may indicate an injury.


  • Swelling or Inflammation:
    • Watch for signs of swelling, redness, or inflammation in specific areas of your body, as these may indicate an injury or inflammation.

Seeking Professional Advice When Needed

  • Consulting a Sports Medicine Specialist or Physical Therapist:
    • If you experience persistent or severe pain, or if you suspect an injury, seek the guidance of a sports medicine specialist or a physical therapist.
    • These professionals can provide an accurate diagnosis, develop a tailored treatment plan, and offer expert advice on injury prevention.  If you would like to see a Gait Happens Clinician online, you can book an appointment here


  • Getting a Gait Analysis or Biomechanical Assessment:
    • Consider undergoing a gait analysis or biomechanical assessment to identify any potential issues with your running mechanics. You can also do this online with a Gait Happens Clinician. 
    • This evaluation can help identify biomechanical imbalances or abnormalities that may contribute to injuries and guide appropriate interventions.

Implementing Injury Prevention Exercises and Routines

  • Strengthening Exercises for Core, Hips, and Lower Extremities:
    • Incorporate targeted exercises to strengthen the core, hips, and lower extremities, as these areas play a crucial role in running mechanics and injury prevention.
    • Focus on exercises that target muscles like the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.


  • Stretching and Mobility Exercises:
    • Include regular stretching and mobility exercises in your routine to improve flexibility and maintain a healthy range of motion.
    • Dynamic stretches before running and static stretches after running can help prevent muscle imbalances and enhance overall flexibility.
Prevent Foot Injuries When Running

Modifying Training to Accommodate Weak Areas or Previous Injuries

  • Cross-Training Alternatives:
    • Engage in cross-training activities that complement running, such as swimming, cycling, or strength training.
    • Cross-training helps distribute the workload across different muscle groups and reduces the risk of overuse injuries.


  • Adjusting Intensity and Frequency:
    • Listen to your body and adjust the intensity and frequency of your training sessions based on your fitness level, recovery, and any weak areas or previous injuries.
    • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your runs while allowing adequate recovery time.

By recognizing early signs of injury, seeking professional advice when needed, implementing injury prevention exercises and routines, and modifying training when necessary, you can minimize the risk of running injuries and maintain a healthy running routine. 


Key Points for Preventing Running Injuries:

  • Understanding common types of running injuries, their causes, and risk factors.
  • Implementing preventive measures such as warm-up and cool-down routines, proper footwear and equipment, training techniques, running form and technique, and rest and recovery strategies.
  • Recognizing early signs of injury and seeking professional advice when needed.

The Importance of Injury Prevention for Long-Term Running Success:

  • Preventing running injuries is crucial for maintaining a consistent running routine and achieving long-term success in your running goals.
  • By prioritizing injury prevention, you can minimize setbacks, enjoy running with a reduced risk of injuries, and continue to progress in your running journey.

Why Prioritize Injury Prevention in Your Running Routine?

  • Take responsibility for your running health and prioritize injury prevention as an integral part of your training.
  • Incorporate the preventive measures discussed in this article into your running routine to safeguard your physical well-being and maximize your running performance.
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Remember, preventing running injuries requires a proactive approach that includes understanding the causes of injuries, implementing preventive measures, and listening to your body. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can reduce the risk of running injuries and enjoy the benefits of a safe and fulfilling running experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What steps can I take to prevent running injuries?

To prevent running injuries, you can:


  • Ensure you have a proper warm-up and cool-down routine.
  • Wear appropriate running shoes  This is very dependent on the case. Gradually increase your training intensity and mileage.
  • Pay attention to your running form and technique.
  • Allow for sufficient rest and recovery.
How can I avoid running injuries?

To avoid running injuries, consider these preventive measures:


  • Perform dynamic stretches and warm-up exercises before running.
  • Choose running shoes that allow your feet to be mobile and strong.
  • Progressively increase your training load to avoid overexertion.
  • Maintain good running posture and stride mechanics.
  • Take rest days and prioritize recovery to prevent overuse injuries.
How can I prevent foot injuries when running?

To prevent foot injuries while running, consider these measures:


  • Wear running shoes that provide sufficient support and cushioning for your feet.
  • Wear appropriate running shoes (we ideally recommend transitioning into a zero-drop shoe, but this is dependent on your feet). 
  • Train your feet to be mobile and strong! We recommend our 12-week Fit Feet Program for feet that keep you pain-free throughout your running career.
  • Gradually increase your running distance and intensity to avoid overloading your feet.
  • Pay attention to your running technique, particularly your foot strike pattern.
  • Take regular breaks and allow time for proper rest and recovery.

Remember, prioritizing injury prevention can significantly enhance your running experience and help you maintain a healthy and enjoyable routine. By implementing these preventive measures and following best practices, you can minimize the risk of running injuries and continue to pursue your running goals.

*Please note that the answers provided here are for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan based on your specific condition.

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