5 Running Mistakes That Could Lead to Injury

Most running injuries are not caused by one little mistake, such as losing your footing as you're running on a trail. They usually develop over the course of weeks, when you're making lots of little mistakes, such as not varying your routine, running in worn-out shoes, or overtraining.

Are you doing things that are putting you at risk for injuries?  Avoid these common mistakes to avoid injuries and keep running strong.


Mistake: Doing too much, too soon

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Many runners, especially people who are new to running, make the "terrible too's" mistake. They get so excited about their running and eager for progress that they do too much mileage, too fast, too soon. They mistakenly think that "more is better" when it comes to running. As a result, they often start to develop common overuse running injuries, such as shin splints, runner's knee, or ITB syndrome.

  • Be more conservative than you think you need to be with how often, how long, and how much you run, especially early on in your development. Increase your mileage gradually. Don't let your weekly mileage increase by more than 10%. If you're new to running or are coming off a long break, start with walking first, and then progress into a run/walk program.
  • Pay attention to aches and pains. If a pain gets worse as you continue running, that's a warning sign that you should stop your run. Listen to your body for injury warning signs and know when you shouldn't run through pain.
  • Take at least one complete day off from exercise each and every week. Don't ignore rest days -- they're important to your recovery and injury prevention efforts. Your muscles build and repair themselves during your rest days. So if you run every day, you're not going to gain much strength and you're increasing your risk of injury.

Mistake: Not varying your routine

runner on a trail
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Most running injuries are repetitive stress injuries, caused by repeating the same movement (running the same way, at the same pace) over and over again.

Varying your workout routines can help reduce your injury risk. You can easily alter your training by running at different paces, changing your terrain and running surface, varying the elevation, cross-training, and rotating your running shoes.

Switching up the elevation, distance, and pace of your runs will not only help you prevent injury, you can also improve your running. Try adding some hill running, a tempo run, and a long run to your weekly routine.

Of course, following a training schedule will give you variety in your training, but it's also important that you listen to your body. If you have some nagging pain, don't force a run at a certain pace or distance just because it's on the schedule. Play it safe and cross-train or take a rest day.


Mistake: Not Strength-Training


Many running injuries, especially knee and hip-related problems, develop because of muscle weaknesses or imbalances. Core and lower body exercises are particularly important when it comes to preventing injuries.

You don't need fancy equipment or a lot of time to get in an effective, beneficial strength-training workout. Even just 20 minutes of strength-training 2-3 times a week will help make you more injury-resistant and, as an added bonus, improve your running performance.

Here are some simple exercises to work into your routine:


Mistake: Not using injury prevention tools

There are lots of tools that runners should have in their injury prevention arsenal.

It's always good to have an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas ready in the freezer to ice down any pain after long runs. If you're feeling pain on the bottom of your foot, freeze a water bottle and roll your foot on top of it.

Massage tools such as foam rollers, the Stick, or even a tennis ball can be used for post-run self-massage, which is extremely beneficial for runners. Regular rolling can reduce tightness and help you avoid common injuries such as ITBS and shin splints.

Also see:


Mistake: Not replacing running shoes

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Your running shoes lose shock absorption, cushioning and stability over time. Continuing to run in worn-out running shoes increases the stress and impact on your legs and joints, which can lead to overuse injuries. The easiest thing you can do to prevent those types of injuries is replace your running shoes when they're worn-out.

So how do you know when shoes need to be retired? Don't judge by the treads of your running shoes. The midsole, which provides the cushioning and stability, usually breaks down before the bottom shows major signs of wear. If you've been feeling muscle fatigue, shin splints, or some pain in your joints -- especially your knees -- you may be wearing running shoes that no longer have adequate cushioning.

A good rule of thumb is to replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles, depending on your running style, body weight, and the surface on which you run. Smaller runners can get new running shoes at the upper end of the recommendation, while heavier runners should consider replacement shoes closer to the 300 mile mark. If you run on rough roads, you'll need to replace your running shoes sooner than if you primarily run on a treadmill.

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