Running is one of the best forms of physical exercise. As a weight-bearing exercise, it helps your body build strong bones. Running also boosts your mood, supports healthy immune function, supports your cardiovascular health, helps you sleep better at night, improves your memory, and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Unfortunately, foot and ankle injuries are the most common sports injuries among runners, and nothing’s quite as disappointing as missing a run due to an injury. Plantar fasciitis, blisters, sprained ankles, stress fractures, and metatarsalgia are some common problems that runners experience.
The good news is Aamir Mahmood, DPM, and our team here at Momentum Foot & Ankle Clinic are experts at getting you back up and running after you sustain a foot injury, but you don’t have to wait until you’re injured to start thinking about foot injuries.
Here are our top injury prevention tips for runners.
Wear the right shoes
We know that runners feel strongly about their shoes, and there’s a good reason: Your shoes protect the feet that carry you mile and mile! There isn’t just “one type” of running shoe; what works for your running buddy may not work for you.
The “right” pair of shoes for you should be:
- Professionally fitted for your foot type and gait
- Designed for your preferred running style and substrate
- Designed with your arches in mind: high, normal, or flat
If you alternate between running on treadmills, along Lake Michigan, or on many of our beautiful bike paths, consider getting a different pair for each substrate. Trail running shoes, for example, have different soles to help keep your traction on muddy, slippery, or wet terrain.
Additionally, replace your shoes at the first sign of wear or after 300-500 miles, whichever comes first.
Wear the right socks
Along with the right pair of shoes, consider upgrading your sock collection. Breathable fabric, such as wool, helps remove moisture from your skin. This can help prevent blisters and fungal infections.
Always warm up and cool down
Warming up before a run and cooling down afterward go a long way in preventing injuries. Warming up starts to get your heart pumping and increases blood flow to your muscles. This helps prevent muscle tears and strains. Jogging in place, jumping jacks, or even jumping in place are good warm-ups.
After your run, be sure to stretch your muscles, especially your calves, quads, and hamstrings. Post-run stretching helps reduce muscle and joint stiffness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Add strength training sessions to your weekly workout routine
Weak muscles are an open invitation to injury for two reasons:
- If weak muscles can’t match the strength and endurance of the stronger ones, the stronger muscles must work harder, increasing your risk of an overuse injury
- If you don’t have strong muscles to support your joints (especially your ankles), you’re more likely to experience joint instability
Strengthening your muscles can help ward off foot and ankle injuries, and they can also help improve your balance. The following exercise helps condition the muscles and tendons in your feet:
- Calf drops
- Toe writing
- Towel pickup
- Toe spread
- Heel and toe walking
Adding a few upper body strength training days is also a good practice. Cross-training like this can help prevent overuse injuries by resting your leg and feet muscles while you focus on other muscle groups.
Build up your mileage slowly
Training for a race or following a program is exciting, but remember to build up your mileage slowly. Increasing your mileage by more than 10% each week can increase your risk of injury and conditions like plantar fasciitis.
Fuel up and sleep tight
Finally, what you eat and how you sleep are the final pieces to your prevention plan. The proper fuel helps prevent exhaustion-related injuries (such as twisting your ankle due to poor form when you’re low on fuel), and getting enough sleep helps keep your focus sharp, which is great for preventing injuries from tripping over sticks or rocks on the path.
Get help for running injuries
Even with all of these prevention strategies in place, accidents happen. Swift treatment is the key to safely returning to your runs, preventing excess downtime, and reducing pain. Whether you’re dealing with a sprained ankle or plantar fasciitis, don’t hesitate to call the location of your choice — Michigan City, Chesterton, Indiana, and Lombard, Illinois. Dr. Mahmood is an expert at diagnosing and treating various sports injuries, including shin splints, heel pain, tendonitis, and more.
To learn more about preventing injuries while running, or to address a current injury, give us a call or request an appointment online.