People of almost any age can run for exercise. It can be done almost anywhere, doesn't cost much, and you don't have to be an elite athlete to do it. Still, there are some basic tips you should know to keep your running safe and injury free.
Your running shoes do not have to be fancy or cost a lot of money. But they should fit well, be comfortable, and support your feet. If you run on trails, you will want to buy shoes for trail running to grip the terrain and protect your feet.
Find a local running store that does gait analysis to help you pick your shoes. You will be asked to try on many types of running shoes. The staff will watch how you run in these shoes to find out which ones will give you the best support for your running style.
Expect to replace your shoes every 3 to 6 months or 350 to 500 miles (563 to 805 kilometers). The ability of the shoes to absorb shock start to decline at that point. Sore legs may also be the first sign that you should replace your sneakers.
Safety needs to be part of your routine no matter where you run. All runners should follow these basic safety rules:
- Run in familiar areas or trails close to your home. If you are away from home, plan your run ahead of time to choose a route that is safe and has support services along the way.
- Do not run in dark, isolated areas, especially at night.
- Avoid busy streets that have a lot of traffic. You should also avoid rural roads that may have fast drivers or lots of curves and hills.
- Run on the shoulder of the road facing traffic. This will make you more visible to drivers.
- Stay clear of motor vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Obey traffic signals and other pedestrian safety rules.
- Never assume a driver can see you.
- If you run at dawn, dusk, or at night, wear bright clothing. Wear at least one piece of clothing that is reflective.
- Do not wear headphones while running. They can make you less aware of your surroundings.
- Consider carrying a mobile phone in the event of an emergency.
- Wear insect repellent if you are running on trails and will be around ticks and mosquitoes.
- Wear sunblock and UV-protective sunglasses when running during the day to protect against skin and eye damage.
Common running injuries can be avoided by taking simple steps.
- Keep your shoes in good shape. Always wear socks to avoid blisters.
- Do not over train. Never step up your running by more than 10% per week. Take time to adjust to that level before increasing your running again.
- Vary your plan by following a long, hard run one day with a short, easier run the next.
- Cross-train to help strengthen all of your muscles and lower the risk of injury.
- Begin each run with a warm-up and follow each run with a cool down.
- Stretch to increase flexibility.
- Run on a variety of surfaces. Include roads, trails, and hills, for example.
- Rest to give your body time to recovery after a hard race, such as a marathon.
Treating Injuries When they Happen
You'll likely have a running injury even if you are careful. You will need to treat it quickly and properly.
Ice tight or painful areas. Apply ice wrapped in a towel for 15 to 20 minutes. Do this many times per day. You will also need to rest your injury to avoid making it worse.
You can also use anti-inflammatory medicine to ease any swelling. Do not use it to mask pain so you can keep running as this will lead to a more severe injury. You will also need rest.
Come back slowly from an injury. The amount of time it takes for you to get back to your training level will be about the same as the amount of time you took off for your injury.
There may be times when you will run in very cold or hot weather. If you take proper safety steps, it shouldn't slow down your running.
Running in extreme heat may lead to heat exhaustion, which is severe dehydration. It can also cause heat stroke, which is a failure of the body to regulate its temperature. This can cause damage to your organs. Follow these steps to lower these risk:
- 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.
- Give yourself time to get used to running in warmer weather. And take into account your fitness level. The less fit you are, the more likely you are to suffer heat-related injury.
- Run early in the morning before it gets too hot. Stay in the shade, when possible.
- Wear light-colored and breathable clothing.
- Pay attention to humidity. For example, 85ºF (29ºC) heat with very high humidity puts more strain on your system than 95ºF (35ºC) heat with very low humidity.
Running in cold, wintry weather can lead to injury from slips and falls, strains or pulls, and frostbite. Follow these steps to lower the risk:
- Warm up before each run.
- Avoid icy and snowy areas. But if you must choose, remember that snow gives you more traction than ice.
- Consider wearing traction devices over your shoes in snowy or icy conditions. They can be purchased at a local running store.
- Plan your run so the wind is at your back on your return home since built-up sweat can cause a chill.
- Make sure your entire body is protected. Pay special attention to your head, ears, hands, and feet, which are most likely to suffer frostbite. Wear a hat to prevent your head from losing body heat. In extreme wind and cold, wear a mask to protect your face.
- 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.
- Wear a thick sock over a thinner sock as long as this does not make your foot fit too tightly in your shoe.
- Change out of wet clothing right away after your run.
Lastly, before you begin any plan, you should get a check-up with your doctor.
American Council on Exercise
American Society of Exercise Physiologists
Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology
Dumont S. Medical aspects of running and running-related injuries. Lehigh University website. Available at: http://www.lehigh.edu/~dmd1/sacha.html. Accessed October 8, 2021.
Exercising in hot and cold environments. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/exercising-hot-cold-environments.pdf?sfvrsn=1b06c972_4. Accessed October 8, 2021.
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.
Tips for a safe running program. American Academy of Othropaedic Surgeons Ortho Info 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