Bad knees? Try switching shoes every 250 miles

Running injuries are perhaps the most common ailment for triathletes  Credit: Bob Martin/Allsport
In part one of this article, professional triathlete Joanna Zeiger shared some trade secrets for training hard while preventing injury in the process.

Now Zeiger shares injury-prevention tips for running and some general workout guidelines:

Running is the most tenuous of the three sports. Running injuries are rampant, and I have certainly experienced my share. I have had the requisite stress fracture and knee aches, and two years ago I suffered from sesamoiditis (inflammation of the ball of the foot. Trust me, it hurts!).

Two of my injuries developed as a result of running in worn-out shoes. On my last orthopedic visit, I was told to change my shoes every 250 miles. That's a lot of shoes!

In fact, (my sponsor) Saucony informed me that only the Kenyans go through more shoes. Injury prevention, I responded.

1. Change your shoes often. This is not the area to be trying to cut costs. When in doubt, throw them out (or recycle them, or whatever — just dont run in them!).

Unless you are running an average of 10 miles a week, six months is too long to keep a pair of shoes. Err on the side of safety and replace shoes instead of trying to squeeze extra miles out of them.

2. Keep at least two pairs of shoes in the rotation, especially if you are running several days in a row.

3. Use your running shoes strictly for running — wearing them to the gym or to run errands will shorten their life span and zap their cushioning.

4. Determine what type of runner you are — neutral, pronator or supinator — and find shoes that accommodate your type of running.

The podiatrist at a good sports medicine clinic is an excellent resource for this task, and can often provide you with a list of specific running shoes suited to your biomechanical needs.

5. Use over-the-counter inserts for more cushioning and/or arch support.

6. Run on trails when possible. Your legs will thank you for the softer surface. Dodging rocks, twigs and roots will help your dexterity.

7. If you are feeling achy, take a few days off or run in the pool.

1. Always warm up. Prior to a workout or a race, it is crucial to ease into your effort. A warm-up helps loosen the muscles and gets rid of lactic acid left over from the last workout.

A proper warm-up will diminish the chance of muscle pulls, and will also keep you stronger throughout your entire workout. Start your workouts at a low heart rate, then gradually pick up the pace until you reach your target zone.

Do not be afraid to spin easy, run for 10 to 15 minutes or jump in the water and swim a few strokes before a race. A pre-race warm-up will help you get rid of the jitters, and prepare your muscles for tough exertion.

2. Stretch regularly. The extra few minutes spent stretching will pay off in the long run. I usually stretch during or after a workout, not before.

If I feel tightness during a ride, run or swim, I do not hesitate to stop and stretch out the aching limb (Hint: stopping to stretch is a great excuse if you need to, yet again, adjust your saddle).

3. Treat yourself to a massage. Its an expensive habit, but worth it. Plan a massage to augment key points of the season.

Good times are after a hard week of training or after a grueling race. Massage greatly expedites the recovery process, and with regular stretching, should keep you flexible and injury free.

4. Watch for signs of over-training, a common habit among triathletes. If you find yourself sleeping poorly, not enjoying your training, are seeing an elevated heart rate in the morning or you are grumpy, chances are you are over-trained.

The remedy for these symptoms is to ease back or take some time off. Every now and then, a nap is more beneficial than a workout. A particular training session will not make you better, but it could cause injury.

Train safe. Race hard. Have fun.

Joanna Zeiger is a professional triathlete and Ph.D. candidate in genetic epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.

Discuss This Article