Running away from injury

Running is a common way to stay fit — in theory, all you require is a good pair of running shoes. But running can also lead to a variety of injuries. Our experts talked to us about the most common running injuries and how to avoid them.

According to Jeff Rothstein, the Director of Sports Enhancement for the PT Center for Sports Medicine, a Physiquality clinic in Akron, Ohio, the most common running injuries are to the foot, knee and back. Jeff notes that having the right running shoes is essential for avoiding injury.

Lori Francoeur, a physical therapist at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy Center in Arizona, agrees. She explains that runners should wear a “good supportive shoe that will provide adequate support and cushioning for your arch and heel.”

For runners, back and knee injuries are often a result of weak muscles.Back and knee injuries are often a result of weak muscles, says Jeff, as many runners focus on running without strength training. He advises that runners strengthen their glutes, hamstrings and core to support the body while running. Otherwise, runners can be prone to imbalanced muscles, which can lead to a poor gait and possibly injury. (If you’re worried about your gait, many physical therapists do gait evaluations to help runners improve their form.)

A running coach and marathoner, Lori cautions runners to take a slow and steady approach to progressing distance. She advises any new runners to not start with more than 1 – 2 miles at a time, not necessarily running the entire time – just plan to be moving the entire time, whether you are walking or running at a slow pace. Keep track of each run’s distance, and don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. There are plenty of ways to measure your distance these days, whether by using an iPhone or Apple watch, or a sports-specific monitor like those from Physiquality partner Polar.

Most runners don't stretch enough.Jeff also points out that most runners don’t stretch enough. “This will lead to progressive shortening of the major muscles involved in running,” he says, which can limit your joint’s range of motion and put you at a greater risk for injury. While stretching can be done before or after your run, Lori notes that stretching should be done when your muscles are already warm, making it better to stretch afterwards. This post-run stretch regimen from Polar lengthens your glutes, hamstrings and calves, and opens your hip flexors, all key muscles for running.

And don’t forget the importance of rest. Rest allows our muscles and joints time to recover from the pounding we endure from running, says Lori. As we’ve previously noted here, It is only after your workout, when you are resting and replenishing your body with protein and other nutrients, when the body heals and gets stronger.

Finally, any runner should listen to his body. While starting a new activity typically comes with muscle soreness and some aches and pains, notes Lori, an intense pain, or a pain persisting for multiple days that does not subside with rest, is one you should have checked out. Physical therapists are a great resource; many outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinics offer free injury evaluations. A PT will be able to listen to your complaints and complete an assessment to determine what the problem is. Then she can create a strengthening and/or stretching program for you to perform to resolve the problem.

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Proper running techniques

Now that temps are warming up and more people are lacing up, it’s time to pay attention to how you run. Here are a few things to look at:

Your Form

“Poor posture while running can affect running efficiency, as well as breathing efficiency. Stand up tall with a big chest and your shoulders back,” says Jeff Rothstein, an exercise physiologist and Director of Sports Enhancement at the PT Center for Sports Medicine, a Physiquality network clinic in Akron, Ohio. Poor posture may also be a cause of side stitches, cramp-like spasms that will bring your run to a close quickly.

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