10 Tips for Injury-Free Running

1. Track your shoes' mileage. Worn out shoes can often contribute to and/or exacerbate pain in the ankles, knees, and hips. Like the shelf-life of the loaf bread in your pantry, your shoes have a "road-life." Instead of time, shoes are best checked for "freshness" by the miles put on them. A good rule of thumb is to buy new shoes every 300 to 500 miles. This will vary from person to person. A small person with a neutral gate may get closer to the 500 miles while a heavier/taller runner may breakdown his/her shoes more quickly and only get 300 miles.

2. Have more than one pair of running shoes. To extend the life of your shoes, having two pair is a great idea. Alternate your runs between the two pairs. Or, you could also have one pair suitable for longer runs and a lightweight pair for your faster speed workouts. Having two pairs is also helpful when you've had a rainy or muddy run. While one pair is drying, you can run in the alternate pair.

3. Only run in your running shoes. Wearing your running shoes to work or for your daily routine, can quickly break them down. After my running shoes are past their running prime, they become my knock-about-shoes. Then when they're too worn out for that, they become my yard work shoes.

4. Have a gait analysis done. Make sure you're wearing the right pair of shoes for your foot strike. Many running shoe stores and running coaches offer running gait analysis as a service. They'll have you run on a treadmill and/or outside and analyze how your foot lands when you run. Whether you roll inward, outward, or have very little or no roll will help them determine if you need a neutral, stability, or motion control shoe.

5. Stretch, Stretch, Stretch! Pre- and post-run stretching is very important in helping prevent injury. Dynamic stretching such as walking, an easy jog, butt kicks, side shuffles, walking lunges, and high knee are all examples of dynamic stretching. If you still feel tight after the dynamic stretches, then you can do some of the more traditional static (stretch-n-hold) stretches. After your run, static stretches for the quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors are appropriate. If you've been sitting at a desk all day or driving hours in the car, you can become very tight. It's important to loosen up those muscles before taking them for a run.

6. Drink up! Proper hydration is vital in helping to prevent muscle cramps. If you're dehydrated before you begin your run or if you become dehydrated during your run, you increase the risk of depleted electrolytes. Potassium (an electrolyte) is needed in order for your muscles to relax after they've contracted. If you begin your run with depleted potassium levels or you deplete them while sweating on the run and don't rehydrate while running, you increase your chances for cramping of the calves,  quads and/or hamstrings.

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