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How to Prevent Running Injuries

Keep your regular jog from turning into a pain.

If you’re a regular runner, then you know going for a run is one of the best workouts around. It burns calories, strengthens your muscles and bones, and is good for heart health—and all you need is a pair of sneakers. But it’s important to take the right precautions before hitting that path or trail. Research suggests that each year, 40 to 50 percent of runners are sidelined by an injury. Don’t want to become a statistic? These moves can help you hit a healthy stride.

Wear the right sneakers. There’s no one perfect shoe for everyone, but there are some things to keep in mind while shopping. Sneakers should be lightweight, not have a big drop in height from heel to toe, and not be overly cushioned. Shop toward the end of the day, when your feet are more swollen, and try to shop somewhere where you can test running in the shoe, not just walking. When trying on shoes, make sure they have a wide toe box so your feet can spread properly, that there’s extra space between toe and shoe, and that the shoes are not too narrow overall.

Update your gear. No matter what sneaker style you choose, make sure you replace them regularly—about every 350 miles, or when the soles are wearing down. If you run 5 miles a day three times a week, that’s about every five months.

Warm up properly. Quickly stretching your quads and then leaping into a run is not the way to go. Work about 10 minutes of warm-up time into your routine. Warming up can consist of static stretches (holding each position for 10 to 30 seconds), dynamic stretches (taking your body through a range of motion), and less intense exercise, like walking. 

And don’t forget to cool down! Low-intensity movement followed by stretching is the way to go. If you run outside, plan your path so you can work walking into the end of your route, and spend time stretching once you’re home.

Check your posture. On your next run, do this quick body scan to verify that you have the right form: Make sure that your head is up, looking straight ahead with your chin parallel to the ground, and that your entire body is facing forward. Keep your shoulders, face, and fists relaxed. A coach trained in running biomechanics can show you anything you’re doing wrong and help correct your form.

Pace yourself. Doing too much, too soon can cause you to hurt yourself. Instead, build up a base before kicking things up a notch. A general rule from the American College of Sports Medicine: Once your workout starts to feel easy, bump up the intensity no more than 5 percent at a time.

Don’t just run. Repeatedly doing only one kind of exercise can set you up for an overuse injury. Try cycling or swimming for a different cardio workout. Resistance training is also a good idea to strengthen all your muscle groups.

Rest up. Your legs need time to recover after a long or hard run, so make sure you build rest into your training schedule. And while one to two days a week of rest is good, that doesn’t mean you have to spend the day on your couch after every run; you can let your legs recharge while working other parts of your body. Try doing a yoga flow or taking a Pilates class.

Get more great health and wellness stories at BHG.com/Strive.