How to Prevent Running Injuries

Preparing to Run

Runners tend to be a highly motivated collection of people. How else do they get out the door to huff and puff and sweat each day? Ironically, it's that mindset that often gets them in trouble. The No. 1 cause of running injuries is overuse [source: Pribut].

The human body does a terrific job of adapting to stress. That's what leads to physical fitness gains. But too much stress can lead to injury [source: Karp].

Overtraining is one cause of each of the top five most common running injuries: Achilles tendonitis, chrondomalacia (also known as runner's knee), iliotibial band syndrome (discomfort on the outside of the knee, caused by irritation of the IT band), plantar fasciitis (an inflammation of the muscle extending down the length of your foot) and shin splints [source: Burgess].

In addition to overtraining, other causes of running injuries include: improper footwear, a lack of strength and flexibility, and irregular biomechanics. Fortunately, each one of these areas can be dealt with relatively easily, before you take a single stride.

Running stores typically employ veteran runners and shoe experts who can analyze your foot and running stride to determine whether you underpronate (absorb a disproportionate amount of weight on the outside of your shoe), overpronate (strike the ground disproportionately on the inside of the shoe) or have an even heel-to-toe strike. Based on their analysis, they can suggest a shoe that best fits your needs.

Strength and flexibility training sounds unnecessary to some runners. It's true; you'd be hard-pressed to find many bodybuilders in your local road race. But strength is about more than sheer mass. Stronger muscle fibers are less likely to tear, and they offer a shock-absorbing benefit for your joints. Ligaments and tendons are also less susceptible to injury if you include strength training in your workout routine[source: Morris]. Additionally, regular stretching done before and, primarily, after a run can keep your muscles long and limber, resulting in a greater range of motion [source: Higdon].