How to Avoid Pain and Injuries While Running
Few things fill us with as much satisfaction than knowing that our patients are able to get out, be active, and do the things they love. For many of our patients, that includes running.
Running is great! It’s not only an excellent means of getting in shape, but also a way that many people find some freedom from the stresses of life. It can have all-around benefits for body, mind, and spirit.
That said, running also comes with its own form of physical stresses. If they’re not considered and managed properly, you are more likely to suffer running injuries that are not good for body, mind, and spirit.
We still encourage most of our patients to start running if they wish to, but we also want to see them able to keep running without getting waylaid by injuries or chronic pain.
We have some general tips for runners on reducing their injury risk, but we are always happy to consult with you individually as well. Not every person has the same specific foot and ankle needs; we can review yours and make our best recommendations for getting the most out of running in the safest ways possible.
Wear the Right Footwear for Running
If you’re just starting out as a runner, it can be tempting to just go out in any old sneakers you have – especially if you are just taking some “test runs” to see if you want to keep going. But that’s simply not a good idea.
Running requires subjecting your feet to repetitive motions and forces, and not having the right shoes can magnify the effects of those impacts on your feet, greatly increasing your risk of injuries such as stress fractures and neuromas.
Running shoes are not a gimmick. They are specially designed to provide good cushioning, flexibility, and motion control for running. Walking shoes, tennis shoes, general “gym shoes” and others are not, and your feet and ankles may pay the price if you’re using them for long-distance runs.
Running shoes can also be tailored toward different terrains and gaits. A trained associate at a sporting goods or running specialty shop can help you find a good match.
And if you already have running shoes but have had them for a while, get them replaced when needed. Shoes break down with use, and eventually they won’t provide the support you need. Running shoes should typically be replaced every 300-500 miles, but your mileage may vary. If your treads are worn out or your feet start aching after a run, those are good signs it’s time to get new shoes.
Warm Up Before You Go
Whether you are a beginning runner or a seasoned pro, your body needs an opportunity to adjust to the paces you are about to put it through. Warming up is how this transition occurs, and neglecting it can increase your risk of overuse injuries such as Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis.
A few minutes of dynamic stretching is recommended. By “dynamic,” we mean engaging in light movement and not just holding stretched out poses. Good examples of dynamic warm-ups include light jogging, walking lunges, and “butt-kicks.” Save more static stretching for cooling down after a run and adjusting your body back to a resting state.
Pace Yourself Properly
If you are training to run a 5K, the best way is not “start running 5K every day until you get better at it.” Such ambition is noble, but it’s also a one-way ticket to pain and injury.
Just as it’s important to help our bodies adjust by warming up, it’s also crucial to help them adjust over the long term toward our goals. If you look at any decent “Couch to 5K” plan, you will see it isn’t asking you to run 5K all at once, but to work up your running endurance in intervals, interspersed with rest days.
Those rest days are essential. Exercise literally breaks our bodies down on a cellular level. Resting allows our bodies to recover and rebuild stronger than before. If you don’t take time to rest and keep up the strain, however, recovery might not be able to catch up with the breakdown—ultimately leading to injury.
Those Couch to 5K guides can serve as a good framework for a plan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean any particular one you pick up is automatically going to be the best for your needs.
Listen to your body, especially when you’re starting out. If something doesn’t feel right or your current plan feels like too much at the moment, do not be afraid to dial it back. It’s always better to take more time to reach a goal than be forced to take time off due to an injury.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned runner, you should never increase your intensity more than 10-15% per week. This can be measured in time, distance, or weight. And remember: even if you increase within the parameters and things aren’t feeling right, there is no shame in reducing that increase. Safe is always better than sorry!
Don’t Try to Run from Foot and Ankle Pain
Even when you take all the right steps, sometimes problems still occur. If they do, don’t try to push through the discomfort and hope they go away. They rarely do, and often things will only become worse!
When you come to see us for any sports injury, we promise we will do what we can to help you get back to full strength and action as quickly and as safely as possible. We want you to pursue what you love, but we don’t want you suffering another injury on the way.
Call our Chandler office at (480) 963-9000 to schedule an appointment with us. If you prefer to reach out to us electronically instead, fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will respond to you during our standard office hours.