10 Simple Ways To Prevent Injuries

Follow these time-tested principles and you'll spend more time on the roads and less in rehab.

Amby Burfoot |

In the mid-1970s, Runner’s World medical editor George Sheehan, M.D., confirmed that he was hardly the only runner beset by injuries: A poll of the magazine’s readers revealed that 60 percent reported chronic problems. “One person in 100 is a motor genius,” who doesn’t have injuries.

To describe himself and the rest of us, he turned to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There is a crack in everything God has made.” With all the amazing advancements in sports medicine, you’d think that our rates of shinsplints and stress fractures would have dropped since Sheehan’s era. But 30 years after running’s first Big Boom, we continue to get hurt.

A recent staging.runnersworld.co.za poll revealed that 67 percent of respondents had suffered an injury.

Still, I figured medical science must have uncovered lots of little-known prevention secrets. So I went searching for them. After reviewing hundreds of published papers, I was surprised to find few answers. Most of the studies are retrospective, looking back. A few are prospective, looking forward. Even then, they’re not the gold standard, which are randomised, controlled, double blind experiments. And conflicting results make it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions. I learned, for example, that running injuries can be caused by being female, being male, being old, being young, pronating too much, pronating too little, training too much, and training too little. Studies also indicate that old shoes don’t offer less cushioning than newer shoes, and leg-length discrepancies don’t cause injuries (but too-little sleep does). Oh, here’s good news: To get rid of blisters, you should drink less and smoke more.

Clearly, the medical studies wouldn’t offer much help. So I switched to Plan B:

I interviewed nearly a dozen of the best running-injury experts in the world. They come from the fields of biomechanics, sports podiatry, and physical therapy. Like the medical studies, these experts didn’t always agree. But the more I talked with them, the more certain principles began to emerge. From these, I developed the following 10 laws of injury prevention. I can’t guarantee that these rules will prevent you from ever getting hurt. But if you incorporate these guidelines into your training, I’m confident you’ll be more likely to enjoy a long and healthy running life.


1. Know your limits

2. Listen to your body

3. Consider shortening your stride

4. Consider Strength Training

5. RICE Works

6. Run on a Level Surface

7. Don’t Race Or Do Speedwork Too Often

8. Cross-Training Provides Active Rest and Recovery

9. Stretch the Back Of Your Legs

10. Get Shoes That Fit

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