The Top 10 Routes To Injury

Of course you wouldn't make these classic injury-causing mistakes... but just in case, here they are

Posted: 5 June 2002

Runners and injuries are frequent bedfellows. If you run long enough or often enough, you will almost inevitably run your way into a problem. Some, of course, are unavoidable, but a large majority are self inflicted – the result of poor judgement, overenthusiasm or simple stupidity. So arm yourself in advance: here are the 10 most common routes to injury – and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

1. Wearing new shoes on race day
This is tempting, because new running shoes have a slipper-like feel from the first fitting. That might remain the case for a short while, but resist it. A plethora of foot and lower-limb problems are but a few miles away.
Prevention: Wear them in first.

2. Wearing old shoes
Another big temptation, mainly because new running shoes are so expensive, old ones are so comfortable and it’s easy to judge wear by the state of the outsole and the upper rather than (correctly) by the compression of the midsole. Joint or shin soreness is the most obvious result and, in fact, should be taken as a sign that your shoes need replacing.
Prevention: Log the miles you’ve run in each pair of shoes, and change them at least every 500-600 miles. It’s cheaper than the medical alternative.

3. Wearing the wrong shoes
This could either be a model unsuited to your gait and foot, or a shoe inappropriate to the type of running you’re doing. Either way, you have a problem.
Prevention: If you don’t know what you’re doing, shop at a specialist running retailer. Don’t try anything stupid, like doing a fell race in a road shoe.

4. Ignoring Pain
Runners accept pain as part of the sport. But not all pain is the same. You have to learn to separate the good pain, associated with the positive progression of your fitness, from the bad pain, which tends to be unfamiliar, infrequent and generally localised in one particular area of the body. It is an early-warning sign of injury, the final severity of which will be determined by how much notice you pay.
Prevention: Pay attention to unfamiliar pains. Ease off, and seek medical help where necessary.

5. Commencing treatment without diagnosis
Okay, so you have an injury, you know it’s a bad one and you feel you know how to solve it. So you start treatment. The trouble is that you’re a runner, not a medical expert. You may have misdiagnosed your problem and started the wrong treatment.
Prevention: If there’s any chance that you’re wrong, see a professional and don’t DIY.

6. Not drinking enough prior to or during a run
Year after year, we warn people about the danger of dehydration, and year after year they ignore us. This is less of a problem on big race days, when runners are more meticulous in their preparations, than it is in training. Dehydration affects your health and performance whenever you run.
Prevention: Drink fluid little and often throughout the day, every day.

7. Not stretching enough
Again, most runners know they should stretch, but they don’t. What’s more, many of them don’t warm up or cool down either. The result is frequent muscle pulls, strains and post-run soreness.
Prevention: Warm up with a few mobilising exercises or a gentle jog before your run; cool down in the same way, followed by stretching.

8. Increasing mileage too quickly
Many runners insist that patience is more of an impediment than a virtue. When you are building up to a longer race or coming back from injury, the temptation is to do it too rapidly.
Prevention: Increase your mileage by no more than 10 per cent per week.

9. Not allowing yourself enough recovery time
Training too hard, too often, is another common error made by people looking for rapid progression. You can do it by following one hard session with another, not taking rest days or not resting effectively when you’re not running. If you’re constantly tired, you open yourself up to illness and infection, and your performance and motivation may suffer.
Prevention: Work out a balanced programme with hard days and easy days, and rest completely at least one day a week.

10. An ignorance of cross-training
The repetitive, unidirectional nature of running puts a huge strain on certain parts of your body. The more you run, the more your chance of becoming injured. But you can maintain your fitness while reducing your injury risk by simply integrating other sports and activities into a total fitness programme.
Prevention: Being a runner doesn’t mean you have to be blind to other sports. Open your eyes.

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Discuss this article

After suffering with bilateral achilles tendonitis for a year, it was a case of 'find an alternative to running or go crazy' scenario. I incorporated going to the gym (avoiding the treadmill and some other no-no exercises) with going swimming. I have to confess, I did champ at the bit a little but knew I could blow my recovery if I was impatient. I have since discovered Aquarobics. What a laugh....and hard work too. It is more than just exercising in water, trying to stay upright is a challenge in itself! I am now getting back to running and racing and, to my amazement, not only have I retained my fitness, but my running times have improved too! So to all you injured runners out there...all is not lost. Find a good alternative form of exercise which you like and go for it!
Posted: 30/10/2002 at 08:16

Well done Roz. Injury can be such a bore but you sound like you've come through really well.

Happy running
Posted: 30/10/2002 at 09:33

Very good Roz,I see your RV trail time was considerably better than the 10k in May.
That hill part of the trail caused problems for quad muscles still feel stiff possibly because I have never tried hill running before. I know I pushed myself a bit too much and didn't do enough post-stretches either, so it's me own fault!
I now just rely on the gym minus treadmill runs until things get back to normal(as long as it does!).
Posted: 03/11/2002 at 16:51

Thanks Brian, by the way, where did you get the results (or any results for that matter!), I'm rubbish at finding them!
Posted: 04/11/2002 at 09:06

Got the results straight after the race.
They charged 20p for the lot.

Any info you want Roz? I can tell you all your friends and yours if you want details.

Posted: 04/11/2002 at 16:28

That's great if you could give me my results from the 10K in May and the trail race. I assume that seeing as there aren't many 'Rozs' around, you managed to find me! By the way, was going to do Cheddar half marathon on Saturday (9th) and can't get in. I thought it would have been a good way to celebrate my birthday...never mind, there is the Bath 4!
Posted: 05/11/2002 at 08:20

Hi Roz, thanks for that message, it came just at the right time...I've injured my thigh...not sure quite the nature of the injury yet, waiting for a physio appointment, but it's only been a week and I'm going mad not being able to run! I guess I'll just have to learn to be patient and get into swimming instead of pretending my leg doesn't hurt and running on it anyway! Thanks!
Posted: 20/05/2003 at 13:18

I couldn't agree more! I was impatient with achilles injury and kept resuming running too soon, aggravating the problem till I could barely walk without pain. Finally I had to give in and face joining the gym - something I've dreaded since school PE days! - and thanks to superb advice from the resident trainer (keeping me off the treadmill but doing cross trainer, rowing, stepper and bike) I am now back to running better than ever. This took six months. I have developed greater strength and muscle tone and a real passion for the gym as well as stronger running. So hang in there!!

Posted: 15/11/2007 at 21:39

When I was injured I got fed up with the gym and swimming because it was 'make work' and not really what I wanted to do.  I have always trained for races and suddenly I didn't have a reason to exercise.

So I entered a fun triathlon.  Now swimming and the exercise bike aren't make work any more, but an integral part of my training plan, and I can still rest my ankle as advised by the physio.

Posted: 16/11/2007 at 13:07


training plan

Supercaz please stop forwith! Your going to show us vetrans up

Posted: 16/11/2007 at 13:10

OK.  I don't have an official plan that I follow - I just do my own thing, but it feels like I now have a purpose.

And the tri is only a baby one - 6 lengths swimming, 10k bike and 2.5k run.

Your still fitter than me Tri Taffia and I won't be stealing your medals in a hurry.

Posted: 16/11/2007 at 13:24

Your still fitter than me Tri Taffia and I won't be stealing your medals in a hurry.


At the moment pure bloody mindness is getting me through any races/training! 

Posted: 16/11/2007 at 13:27

If you are really serious about preventing injury then forget trainers altogether - crazy as this might seem at first glance,.it is a little known fact that running barefoot is the safest way to run (see article in Indepndant 4th Aug 2009) YOU 127% MORE LIKELY TO BE INJURED WEARING TRAINERS.

I have been running barefoot for about 5 years - it started when I ran the London marathon barefooted for a bet! and have never had any injuries at all.

I am planning to walk/run from John  O'graots to Lands End barefooted next april and am confident that I will make it without strains, blisters of ligament problems.

Steve Hammond

Posted: 05/08/2009 at 21:07

Nice posts Roz and well noted. If you are looking for a run out this weekend look at Salisbury 54321, choice of 10/20/30/Mara and taking entries on the day. Starts at 9.30
Posted: 05/08/2009 at 21:28

Ahem ... sorry to tell you this SC, but Roz's posts are from 2002 ...
Posted: 05/08/2009 at 22:25

Errm...well spotted. Early sentiments still apply and was never much good with dates even if there is a co-incidence this weekend!
Posted: 06/08/2009 at 00:17

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