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7 Tips to Avoid Running-Related Injuries

See how shoe choices, running surfaces and more, affect your injury risk

Up to 70 percent of runners develop injuries every year

Whether you run to win races, to train for another sport, to lose weight or for the joy of it, running can be tough on your body. “You can wind up with stress fractures, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and just plain sore feet and knees,” says primary care sports medicine physician Chelsea Evans, DO, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute.

Up to 70 percent of runners develop injuries every year. But these training suggestions can help keep many injuries at bay:

  1. Choose your running shoes carefully. “Make sure they provide good shock absorption and strong support,” says sports medicine physician Christopher Urbanek, DO, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute. A shoe with a stiff heel counter (the part at the back of the heel above the sole) gives you more rear foot control, which can help keep your foot and ankle from rolling. “Never run a race in new shoes and always tie your laces tight,” Dr. Urbanek says.
  2. Replace worn shoes. Be sure to get new ones after 500 miles of use. “That’s about every eight months if you run 2 or more miles a day,” Dr. Urbanek says.
  3. Run on a track or other soft surface. “This will help decrease the pounding to your feet and legs,” Dr. Evans says. Avoid running on a slanted surface.
  4. Warm up before you run and cool down afterward. Stretch both before and after you run. “Include stretches for your calves, thighs and hamstrings,” Dr. Evans says.
  5. Begin your running sessions with a slow walk. Progress to a slow jog before you pick up speed.
  6. Use proper technique. “Avoid overstriding or taking too wide a stride by having your feet land beneath your hips,” Dr. Evans says. Keep your shoulders back and your hands lightly cupped. Avoid clenching your fists. Maintain your elbows at a 90-degree angle, close to your body.
  7. Increase your running time, distance and intensity gradually. Take off one or two days a week. “Doing so will allow your body time to recover,” Dr. Urbanek says.

Despite doing everything right, you might come down with an injury. These tips may help you recover:

  • Apply ice if you have swelling. “Use heat if there is minimal swelling over an area that needs increased circulation,” Dr. Evans says.
  • Switch to nonweight-bearing exercises. Swimming and bike riding are good alternatives.
  • Perform stretching and strengthening exercises. A physical therapist or sports medicine specialist can provide an appropriate regimen, depending on your injury.

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