7 Best Ways to Avoid Running Injuries

Apr 06, 2021

Hey everyone! My name is Casey - I am a physical therapist, UESCA running coach, Precision Nutrition L1 Coach, & the Founder of Running4U. If you are completely new to running, training for an upcoming race, or would like some help in becoming a stronger, faster, & injury-free runner - I would love to help you get there! To learn more, head over to the "Home" tab and fill out a brief application (~3 min). Hope you enjoy today's blog!


One of the reasons I quit my clinic job as a physical therapist is because I was more passionate about helping runners AVOID injuries and THRIVE in their running & health from the get- go than I was about helping them rehab FROM injuries.

There are numerous effective means and strategies to take that will greatly minimize your risk for injury as a runner.

While many of these are individualistic (i.e. implementing specific knee strengthening exercises if you have patellofemoral pain), there are some common themes that exist to help you run injury-free that I'll highlight in this blog post.

Additionally research suggests that anywhere from 60-70% of runners are likely to sustain a running-related injury over the course of a year that sidelines them from consistent training.

And while it’s unrealistic for all runners to expect to have no running injuries – I think we can safely agree that 70% is way too high of a number.

I believe there is a big gap to fill concerning how runners should approach their training and lifestyle to help them best avoid injury that could significantly decrease this 70% number.

So, without further ado, here are my top 7 ways to avoid injury as a runner!


  1. Strength Train


  • Running is essentially a series of single leg hops where you are producing anywhere from 4-10 times your bodyweight in force PER STEP. I say this not to try & invoke fear (your body is robust!), but rather, to make it clear that we need to have ample strength in our primary muscle groups to be able to accept these loads repeatedly over time.
  • Strength training helps to increase our body’s capacity to absorb these large ground reaction forces that we experience running.
  • Strength training also helps to increase  bone density, which in turn aids in preventing stress fractures and other minor bone stress injuries. A recent study found that running itself actually isn’t great at building bones – and while that may seem like somewhat of a bummer of a finding – it was an absolute W for pushing the importance of strength training in the running community.
  • In addition to aiding in avoiding injuries - from a performance standpoint, strength training also helps by improving running economy, increasing tendon stiffness to help absorb and release forces more efficiently, increasing maximal speed & anaerobic capacity, and aiding in reducing muscular fatigue as well.


  1. Write Your Plan in Pencil


  • If you’re following a specific program or training regimen, don't feel like you have to force yourself into doing the exact workouts you have planned no matter how your body is feeling. Writing your plan in pencil allows you to "erase" and alter what you originally had planned based on how your body is feeling on any given day.
  • This is essentially another way of saying “listen to your body.” If you have a tough key workout planned in the middle of the week, and the night before you only got 4 hours of sleep because you were watching funny cat videos on YouTube all night – then altering that workout is probably in your best interest.
  • This can also go the other way in that if you wake up feeling amazing for whatever reason, altering your workout to be a bit tougher may also be in your interest.
  • Basically - it’s impossible to know how your body will react to any given training plan – especially if you are new to running. It’s best to stay adaptable as following your plan strictly to a "T" no matter how you are feeling on any given day is a great way to get injured. Your body is your friend, and you should treat it like that!
  • A general guideline that is helpful to follow is if you feel pain that you would rate greater than a 3/10 during or after a run, stop training and seek advice from a physical therapist. Also - if you notice that your running form changes due to your pain – this is another sign that you should stop running and seek advice.


  1. Sleep 7-9 Hours a Night


  • This is the most underrated and undervalued component of injury prevention.
  • Sleep is simply when our body recovers, building muscle and recovering from the stresses we place on it during our training. After all, it is not the training itself that makes us run faster, it is the adaptations that occur because of it – which happen largely during sleep.
  • Suboptimal sleep affects the immune and endocrine systems – which impacts recovery and training adaptations. It also results in impaired cognitive function, an increase in pain perception, & changes in mood.
  • Many of us become concerned with supplements, foam rolling, and massage guns (none of which are inherently bad things) for recovery and injury prevention when many of us simply just need to sleep more.


  1. Build Mileage Gradually


  • Most running injuries are overuse injuries that are a result of doing too much, too fast, with too little recovery. It is normal and good for runners to want to do more - we need to in order to improve - but it’s important to do this with strategic, gradual progressions to allow our bodies time to adapt to the increase in stresses it’s being put through as well as demands it’s being required of.
  • A very general guideline to follow with this is to increase mileage around ~10% per week. This percentage may be larger if you're starting out with lower weekly mileage, and may be lower if you are already at a very high weekly mileage - but it's not a bad general guideline to go off of.


  1. Run with "Good" Form


  • It's first important to understand that no running technique is considered “perfect” – however, there are some concepts about running mechanics that are important to consider.
  • As a brief overview, here are 4 cues to consider with your own running form:
  • Maintain good posture – don’t look down at your feet – rather, imagine a string is pulling your head up and extending your spine.
  • Don’t overstride – overstriding can lead to increased stress to your shins, knees, hips, and low back. Not only this, but it also decreases your running efficiency. Increasing your running cadence, or step-rate, roughly 5-10% can sometimes help solve this.
  • Avoid bobbing up and down excessively. This is called vertical oscillation – and some is needed in running, but too much is bad as it leads to increased vertical forces and decreased efficiency. Increasing your cadence slightly can help this as well.
  • Lightly engage the core. For your limbs to produce power in running – your core needs to be stable. In other words, it can’t be all "loosey-goosey". This doesn’t mean trying to flex yourself into a 6-pack during your entire run – but simply to lightly engage it. Imagine your belly button is attached to a string that is pulling you forward as you run.
  • Implementing these four cues can help you avoid some unnecessary increases in stresses placed on your joints as well as run more efficiently at the same time. 


  1. Warm-Up


  • A good warm-up has been estimated to result in all the way up to a 50% reduction in risk of developing overuse injuries.
  • A good warm-up will get your blood flowing to your muscles as well as start to work on the range of motion in some key joints. Making time to include a warm-up makes a world of a difference and is well-worth the effort to put aside before your runs. Get into a habit of making a quality warm-up part of your normal running routine.


  1. Utilize Cross-Training


  • Cross-training is any form of exercise you do in addition to running that gives your body a break from the normal stresses of running while still maintaining fitness (biking and swimming being two of the most common examples).
  • Cross-training is super useful for recovery days and general rehabilitation to allow your body time to recover from the stresses that running places on your joints, muscles, and tendons while maintaining or even improving your aerobic fitness.
  • Common forms again include biking and swimming – but even playing sports like soccer or basketball help to build strength and flexibility in different planes and simply provide some variation to the repetitive nature of running.
  • You can also utilize cross-training in a way that mimics what you would have done on a regular running day. For example – if you were planning on a long run, you could replace it with a slow/long bike ride. Or if you had a workout like a 3x1600m – you could replace it with a cross-training day that includes the intensity and duration of what a 3x1600m day would look like for you. So if that converted to a duration of 3x10 minutes, you might perform a bike session of 3x10 minutes at a similar intensity. The stresses experienced are obviously very different between the 2 forms of exercise - but doing this simply helps offer some sort of framework to add specificity to your cross-training.
  • Cross-training is a great way to give your body a break while not losing a ton of gains in fitness you’ve made. From a mental standpoint, it will also help avoid burnout as well.


There you have it ladies & gentlemen - my top 7 ways for runners to avoid injuries!

I hope you found this blog post helpful, and always feel free to reach out if there's something else you'd like covered.


And again, a lot of injury prevention for runners requires an individualized approach - considering multiple factors like your injury history, training history, lifestyle habits, stress levels, & more.

If you can't seem to run without battling nagging injuries  - I'd love to help you build a foundation of strong & healthy running to thrive in for the rest of your life.

You can apply to learn more at the home page!

Happy running,



Dr. Casey Guthmiller, PT, DPT

UESCA Running Coach

Precision Nutrition L1 Coach

Founder of Running4U

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