7 Ways To Reduce Running Injury Risk

Running is a fun, beneficial activity for the entire family. And while it's typically a safe sport, there are things you can do to reduce the likelihood that you will experience injuries.

There are 2 categories of injuries associated with running, says Chris Miles, MD, sports medicine specialist and head primary care team physician for athletics at Wake Forest University: overuse injuries and acute injuries.

"We more commonly—though not exclusively—see overuse injuries with running," he says. "These can include stress fractures or stress reactions in the foot, lower leg or hip; tendonitis or tendinopathy in the lower extremities around the foot and ankle; and IT (Iliotibial) band inflammation along the outside of the leg."

Dr. Miles says that while running-related injuries are not 100 percent preventable, there are steps you can take to make them less likely. Here are a few of his tips.

Talk to Your Doctor if You Have a History of Certain Illnesses

Running is a healthy activity for many people, but those who have a history of heart disease, coronary artery disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, osteoporosis or diabetes should check with their doctor before beginning a running regimen.

Invest in Quality Footwear

High-quality running shoes may improve performance and reduce injury risk. Talk to a sports medicine specialist or a knowledgeable shoe sales consultant for advice on choosing the right shoe.

If you're considering minimalist or barefoot running, you'll need to adapt your running regimen to account for a different stride, foot strike and pace.

Don't Increase Your Mileage Too Quickly

Going too far too soon is probably the most common mistake people make when they start a running program. Instead, you should slowly build both mileage and intensity.

Make sure children start at a limited mileage and work their way up. It's never too early to start some form of a running program, but you should make sure children start out easy. Just like with adults, the buildup should be slow. This may mean running a while and then walking some as well.

Include Other Exercises

Don't lose sight of the other aspects of musculoskeletal health. Resistance training is a helpful exercise for runners. And don't forget that post-activity stretching is an important component as well.

When Recovering from an Injury, Don't Lose Ground

If you experience a running-related injury, it may be tempting to avoid activity for a few days. But instead you should focus on activity modification. In other words, take a break from the activity that caused the injury, but don't stop doing everything.

Keep up exercises like swimming, cycling, resistance training and weight training so that you don't lose conditioning while you're recovering.

Stay Hydrated

It's important to remain hydrated any time you're running, but especially during warm-weather months when the risk for heat-related illnesses rises.

If you're going to be running or participating in intense activity for an hour or longer, it's best to drink a beverage containing electrolytes and carbohydrates. For anything less than an hour, water is fine.