Few sports are better at testing your mental and physical strength than long distance running. But in the quest to push ourselves farther and faster, sometimes our bodies can’t keep up, and pain tells us so. Even minor pain in your foot or ankle will affect your performance, as you end up shifting your balance or changing your gait to take pressure off the injury.
The most common foot and ankle injuries for runners can easily be avoided by observing these 6 simple rules.
Rule 1: Wear Proper athletic shoes.
Having the right shoes are critical. Your athletic shoe must fit well and should be padded and supported in the heel, arch, midfoot, and toe to protect your feet from the intense pounding they’ll receive. Buy them at a specialty athletic shoe retailer, not at a big box store, because you get what you pay for. Cheap shoes are made with cheap materials and little padding or support. If your shoes are more than two years old, upgrade before you start training. Read about choosing the right running shoe.
Rule 2: Always stretch before competition or training.
Never, ever run cold. Stretching is the simplest way to avoid injuries, but is so often ignored by amateur athletes. Before competition or training, do stretching routines for your entire body, not just your lower extremities, as all of the muscles work together. Warming up also helps prevent damage to bones, tendons, and ligaments. See stretching exercises from Runners World here.
Rule 3: Do not ignore pain.
If you ignore pain and keep running, you’ll turn a minor injury into a major problem. If your foot or ankle hurts in any way, get an immediate diagnosis from a podiatrist. Minor injuries treated early minimize down time. Learn about the most common running injuries.
Rule 5: Increase distance and intensity gradually.
Every runner likes a challenge, but pushing too hard too fast will lead to injury, especially for those whose 20’s are behind them. Begin with interval training (a mixture of walking and running), and slowly increase the running interval every week as race day nears. Rest completely one day a week to allow time for your body to recover. Read about the best ways to increase your endurance.
Rule 6: Run on different surfaces and routes to increase performance.
Mix up the surfaces you run on. The differences between grassy areas, sand, or paths in wooded areas has tremendous benefit for the muscles in your feet and ankles – just make sure to avoid obstacles. Muscles adapt quickly to routine, and if we run the same route every day, we limit conditioning. Change it up, and the muscles react accordingly. Read how to boost your performance.
See you on the track!