Safety and Injury Prevention for Runners
Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
is a great way to stay fit, ease stress, and spend time outdoors. Here are some steps that new and long-time runners can take to stay safe and healthy for many miles to come.
Avoid Injury TOP
training too much or increasing mileage or pace too quickly. These tips can help you to avoid injuries:
- Warm up with a jog before starting your run.
- Alternate hard days and easy day. Set aside 1 to 2 days per week for rest or cross training.
- Do not increase your total weekly mileage by more than 10% per week.
- Ease into speed workouts by throwing a few short distance surges or uphill sprints into your normal runs. Slowly progress to track workouts once this becomes routine.
- Replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles. Shoes lose their ability to absorb shock over time.
- Run on a variety of surfaces. Include roads, trails, and hills, for example.
If you feel pain, stop and rest the area for up to three days.
Stay Hydrated TOP
No matter the temperature, you need to replace fluids to avoid
- Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid over-hydrating. If your urine is clear, then you are well-hydrated. If it is dark, you will need to drink more.
- Drink water for workouts lasting 30 minutes or less. For longer workouts, add a sports drink that contains some carbohydrates and electrolytes.
Be Prepared TOP
Take steps to stay safe on the road:
- Wear light, bright-colored, and/or reflective clothing.
- Run against the direction of traffic.
- If you run in the city, pay close attention to streetlights, pedestrians, and traffic. Many drivers do not expect runners to be in the city and may not be looking out for you.
- Do not run with headphones. It prevents you from hearing approaching people or cars.
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back.
- Carry some kind of identification or write your name and phone number on your running shoes. If you have a health condition, wear a medical alert bracelet or ID tag with contact information.
Do Not Be an Easy Target TOP
Many people like running alone. If you are one of them, take a few extra safety steps:
- Be aware of your surroundings and stay in an area that you know well.
- Do not run in isolated areas.
- Be wary of strangers. Look directly at others and pay attention, but keep your distance and keep moving.
- Vary the time and place of your runs.
- Carry a whistle to call for help, if needed.
- Do not run too close to bushes or parked cars where someone could hide.
- Do not wear jewelry.
- Be careful if anyone in a car asks you for directions. If you answer, keep at least a full arm's length from the car.
- If you think you are being followed, change direction and head for open stores, groups of people, or a home that has its lights turned on.
Running with others will increase your safety. Ask a friend, bring your dog, or join a running club.
Dress Appropriately for the Temperature TOP
Don't let weather keep you from an outdoor run. Just be sure you're prepared to face the elements.
- Dress in layers. Wear a synthetic shirt, a fleece layer to provide insulation, and a jacket that is windproof and waterproof. This will wick moisture from your skin.
- Avoid overdressing. It is better to feel a bit chilly as you start out. As you run, your body temperature will rise.
- Wear a hat and gloves. You can take them off as you heat up and pull them back on when needed. The best material for your hat is wool or synthetic material.
- To keep your feet warm, try synthetic socks with wool socks over them.
- Consider wearing traction devices over your shoes in snowy or icy conditions. They can be purchased at a local running store.
In hot weather:
- Wear light-colored and breathable clothing.
- Wear sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
Stay Safe When Traveling TOP
The beauty of running is that you can do it anywhere. When you are traveling, follow these safety steps:
- Ask the hotel staff or concierge for safe routes to run.
- Check out your course on a map before you start and bring the map along with you.
- Take note of the street address of the hotel. Carry a card with your hotel address along with your personal ID.
- Leave your room key with the front desk.
- Follow your usual safety rules.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Road Runners Club of America
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Run safe in cold weather. Road Runners Club of America website. Available at: https://www.rrca.org/education/for-runners/cold-weather-running. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Run safe in hot weather. Road Runners Club of America website. Available at: https://www.rrca.org/education/for-runners/hot-weather-running. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Runner safety tips. Road Runners Club of America website. Available at: https://www.rrca.org/education/for-runners/runner-safety-tips. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Running: Preventing overuse injuries. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/running-preventing-overuse-injuries. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Tips for a safe running program. Ortho Info——American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/tips-for-a-safe-running-program. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/8/2021