Running is one of the best exercises that can tone the entire body and give you both an aerobic and cardiovascular workout. It’s also low-cost, since it doesn’t require fancy machines or a gym membership. But making some common mistakes in your running routine can leave you with pain or even chronic injuries. Here are some important tips all runners — from casual amateurs to dedicated athletes — should keep in mind:
- Wear the Right Shoes — Every Time
The only “equipment” runners truly need are a pair of well-fitted shoes, but this is an absolutely essential investment. It’s certainly possible to get shoes that are both affordable and supportive, but it’s often worth spending just a little bit more for a really good pair, even if you’re just starting off. If you hurt yourself because of bad shoes, you’re more likely to give up on running altogether.
- Stretch Before and After Each Run
Bending over to touch your toes a few times doesn’t count as stretching. Stretch and warm up for at least five minutes before your run, paying particular attention to the backs of your legs and your feet themselves. And after your run, take advantage of your warm muscles to spend 10 or 15 minutes doing some deep stretches, loosening up muscles in your upper body as well as your legs.
- Don’t Discount Footstrike Technique
Technique matters more than speed, and that goes double if you’re wanting to prevent injury. Pay attention to how your core strength ties into your stride and foot positioning, ensuring that you roll smoothly through the foot each time you switch your weight from foot to foot. If you’re willing to brave the cold, winter is actually a great time of year to slow down and focus on running form.
- Be Smart About Orthotics and Inserts
People often deal with flat foot pain or other problems caused by foot structure by buying off-the-shelf inserts. But in order to be truly effective, most orthotics need to be custom fitted to your feet. Otherwise, they’re not doing much more than adding cushioning your running shoes should already have.
- See Your Local Podiatrist About Injuries
For some reason, people tend to be stubborn about seeing their local podiatrist (a foot and ankle doctor) about foot pain, as if such pain is a normal part of running. Let’s set the record straight: Muscle soreness is a normal part of exercising, but pain and injury aren’t. Runners often unnecessarily deal with common injuries such as achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and ingrown toenails when a simple visit to the local podiatrist’s office would relieve their pain. When you do visit the doctor, you should ask what changes you can make in your running routine or technique to alleviate the problem for the future.
What else can runners do to prevent and treat common running woes? Discuss in the comments.