How To Keep Running Injury Free

Why do we get running injuries? What can you do avoid a running related injury? Here we give you all the information you need to keep running, injury free.

Injured from running? You’re not alone.

Both recreational and competitive running have become increasingly popular over the last few decades. Due to the vast amount of research, we know more about running injuries than ever before. Despite this, 19-79% of runners become injured each year (Van Gent et al, 2007; Hollander et al2021). It goes without saying that the number one reason to stop running isn’t lack of motivation, it’s injury (Fokkema et al 2019).

For a sport that is considered easy, natural, inexpensive (the cost of a pair of shoes), and convenient – the injuries are anything but that. They are complicated and multifactorial (Taunton et al, 2003) and whilst it can often feel like an injury has come out of nowhere, the reality is that it has been building up without your knowledge for a long time.

A running injury is the accumulation of microtrauma without appropriate healing – there comes a point where you body can no longer handle the load and heal the (albeit small) damage quickly enough. In summary, the tissue load exceeds capacity and injury occurs (Hreljac, 2004; Hollander et al 2021).

What is a running related injury (RRI)?

The definition of a running related injury, in simplistic terms, is when the tissues taking load (such as your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints) are unable to handle the amount and/or frequency of stress. The damage overtakes the healing process, and injury occurs. You may have heard that stressing your body helps to strengthen it – this is absolutely true. However, there is an optimal balance of load and recovery that is required to increase strength (Hreljac, 2004). Injury happens when this balance is disturbed and your ‘Running Injury Threshold’ is exceeded.

The Running Injury Threshold:

A threshold is the point at which above the value something takes place, and below the value it does not (Online Websters Dictionary). We can simplify the question of ‘why running injuries happen’ by introducing the concept of the Running Injury Threshold.

Your ‘Running Injury Threshold’ is unique to you. It is reached by adding together all your risk-factors for running related injuries (see figure below). The bigger the ‘risk’ for each element, the closer it takes you towards your running injury threshold. Some factors to consider are:

Consider this example:

Scenario 1:

Olivia normally runs her usual 5km loop a few times a week and a parkrun on a weekend. Olivia doesn’t get injured.

Scenario 2:

After deciding she loves running and wants to do more, Olivia enters her local Marathon. Taking the advice from her friends she starts to follow a training marathon training programme and is running more (often and longer). Whilst she is diligent with her training, nothing else changes. As a result of running longer, and more frequently (thereby increasing her training load), she surpasses her running injury threshold and is burdened with an injury.

Scenario 3:

Olivia takes this information on board and she improves her strength, optimises her flexibility and recovery. She also has a gait analysis to improve her running form and highlight the root cause to her problem, which optimises her rehabilitation programme and treatment for the injury. Now she successfully continues to train for her marathon, injury free.

Whilst this is a fictitious example, it will most certainly resonate with many people in what happens when they mysteriously develop a running injury but no one knows why. The reason is there, but not always obvious.

Running Injury Causes and Risk Factors:

Your risk factors for developing a running injury are usually split into two categories, intrinsic – these are individual characteristics, and extrinsic – these are things that are related to the environment and external from the runner (Saragiotto et al, 2014).



Extrinsic (Training)


 The most common running injuries


The KNEE is the most common joint effected by running injuries(VanDer Worp et al, 2016; Buist et al, 2010; Taunton et al, 2003; Hollander et al,2021).

These are the 4 most prevalent running injuries (Fernandez-Lopez et al, 2020) :

Ways you can help reduce your risk of a running injury


Knowing the injury rate for running is so high, what can you do to help reduce your risk of developing an injury? Unfortunately, there is no cookie cutter recipe for how to prevent or resolve an injury. Treatment, rehabilitation, and training are individual, as are the components that make-up each person’s ‘injury puzzle’.

However, here are a few general tips to keep you on the right track.

Here are our 5 top tips on ways to reduce you risk of a running related injury:

1.  Be wary of training errors
Not many people commit training errors intentionally. If you knew something you were doing was going to give you a running injury, you probably wouldn’t do it. However, when starting a new programme or training for a new distance – it’s easy to get carried away. Always increase your mileage and frequency gradually. This rule applies for changing your training regime but also coming back from injury.
2.      Strength training
Studies have shown that strengthening is the main preventative measure you can take to reduce your risk of a running injury (Ferber, et al. 2011). We recommend getting an analysis of your strength first as a baseline to improve on. Aim to incorporate some running strengthening exercises into your workout routines 2-3x per week.
Try these 3 strengthening exercises:
3.      Mobility
Stretching is controversial. But joint mobility will help your running movements be easier, less restricted, and give you the ability to run faster . Take up foam rolling or a regular mobility programme to help keep yourself mobile and aware of any imbalanced tightness that could lead to joint restrictions.
Try these mobility and foam rolling exercises

TIP: Make sure your toes are relaxed and not pointed upwards throughout – this is easier, but ‘guards’ your muscles making it more difficult to release them.


4. Gait Analysis

How you run is very important in preventing running injuries, as well as helping to get to the bottom of any existing injuries you already have. Ideally, if you can have a 3Dgait analysis this will give you the best possible picture of how you move in the three planes of human movement.

The benefits of having gait analysis for a runner are well documented (Benson et al 2018) and are commonly used to:

More recently, gait analysis assessments are used to improve performance by identifying variables related to efficiency, such as vertical excursion, cadence, and stride characteristics.

The main types of gait analysis are 2 dimensional (2D), using a video camera, or 3 dimensional(3D), using state of the art technology and software.  Whilst 2D gait analysis will be able to give you a good idea of your running, it lacks the accuracy and objectiveness of 3Dgait analysis. Used in research, 3D gait analysis is the gold standard for detecting running injuries, and provides accurate information about your joint movements – Run3D can also do this in real-time using our gait retraining mode to help you pin point the problem AS you run!


Here is an example of a gait analysis report from Run3D


5.      Shoes

Don’t overthink this too much, but make sure you have a pair of shoes that are comfortable for you. If this is a minimalist, zero-drop shoe, great. If it’s a stability shoe, great. If it works for you, that is what matters most.


In summary, whilst runners have a high injury rate, there are some things you can do to keep yourself under your injury threshold. When in doubt, see a specialist to give you advice. The faster you get on board with your injury, the faster you’ll be able to get rid of it. Hopefully for good.



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Ziga, K., & Sarabon, N., 2017, Common running overuse injuries and prevention, Monten J. Sports Sci Med. Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 67-74.

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van Gent RN, Siem D, van Middelkoop M, van Os AG,Bierma-Zeinstra SM, Koes BW, 2007, Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review, Br JSports Med, Vol. 41, pp. 469-480.

Van Der Worp, M., WiJer, A., Van Cingel, R., Verbeek, A.,NiJhuis-Van der Sandn, M., & Staal, J., 2016, The 5-or 10-km Marikenloop Run: a prospective study of the etiology of running-ralted injuries in women,Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, vol. 46, No. 6, pp. 462-470.

Websters Dictionary – Threshold Definition - Online at: ['s%20Word%20of%20the%20Day%20for%20June%2023%2C%202017,mental%20effect%20begins%20to%20be]

Napier, C., MacLean, C., Maurer, J., Taunton, J., &Hunt,M. 2019, Kinematic correlates of kinetic outcomes associated with running-related injury, Vol. 35, pp. 123-130.

Nigg, B., Baltich, J., Hoerzer, S., & Enders, H. 2015,Running shoes and running injuries: myth busting and a proposal for two paradigms: ‘ preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol 49, pp. 1290-1294.

Saragiotto, B., Yamato, T., Lopes, A., 2014, What do recreational runners think about risk factors for running injuries? A descriptive study of their beliefs and opinions, Journal of Orthopaedic &Sports Physical Therapy, Vol. 44. No. 10, pp. 733-738.

Hein, T., Janssen, P., Wagner-Fritz, U., Haupt, G.,&Grau, H., 2013, Prospective analysis of intrinsic and extrinsic riskf actors on the development of achilles tendon pain in runners, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Vol. 24, No. 3, pp. 201-212.

Ferber, R., Kendall, K., & Farr, L. 2011, Changes in knee biomechanics after hip-abductor strengthening protocol for runners with patellofemoral pain syndrome, Journal of Athletic Training, Vol. 46, pp.142-149.

Fernandez-Lopez, I. & Rojano-Ortega, D., 2020, Lowerlimb biomechanical factors related to running injuries: a review and practical recommendations, Strength and Conditioning Journal, Vol 42, No. 1, pp. 24-38.

Benson, L., Clermond, C., Bonsnajk, E., Ferber, R. 2018, Theuse of wearable devices for walking and running gait analysis in the lab: a systematic review, Gait & Posture, Vol. 63, pp. 124-138.









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