Many runners find that foam rolling is especially useful for alleviating pain in the iliotibial band, which runs along the outside of the thigh and is a very common site of injury in runners. Foam rollers typically cost about $20 and they're available at many running specialty shops and sporting goods stores.
The use of elastic therapeutic tape (aka kinesio tape) to reduce injury pain during activity is viewed skeptically by many athletes, coaches, doctors and physical therapists—I was skeptical about it too before I tried it in a moment of desperation.
I promised to pace my younger brother through an attempt to break three hours in the marathon. Six days before the race I reaggravated a calf muscle strain that had already limited my training. The next day I wasn't even able to walk without soreness. On a wing and a prayer, I purchased a roll of Rock Tape ($18) and applied it to the affected muscle before the start of the marathon. Amazingly, it knocked out the pain almost completely and I was able to finish the race.
Kinesio taping works by stimulating nerve endings near the site of damaged tissue, distracting the brain's attention from the tissue and dulling pain. It's a notoriously hit-or-miss solution, though. It often works well on mild muscle strains like my calf injury but is pretty much useless for higher-grade strains and deeper injuries such as bone stress. Still, at $18 a roll it's worth a try when you're hoping to train or race through a mild soft-tissue injury.
The mino is an ingenious new product that tracks running shoe wear automatically. Why would you want to do that? Because running in old, worn out running shoes is a known contributing factor to many running injuries. Simply insert the mino under the insole of a new running shoe and train as normal. Every once in a while lift up your insole and press the button on the mino. Lights will indicate how close you are to the standard 400-mile limit for shoe wear. When you get a red light, it's time for new shoes.
Best of all, the mino costs just $15.
Plantar fasciitis is an irritation of the connective tissue in the heel caused by repetitive impact. It is one of the most painful overuse injuries that runners experience, and also one of the most difficult to overcome.
The reason plantar fasciitis is so tough to defeat is that most of the healing occurs at night, when the ankle is extended and the fascia shortened. As soon as you get out of bed in the morning and put weight on the foot, the fascia stretches out and all of that healing is undone. The Strassburg sock is a special sock worn at night that keeps the ankle flexed to allow the fascia to heal at a functional length, and often brings miraculous results to plantar fasciitis sufferers.
The Strassburg sock goes for about $40.
There are few miracles in the prevention and treatment of running-related injuries, which will always remain an unfortunate part of the running experience. But the products I've shared with you here will make them a smaller part of your life as a runner.race.