How to Avoid Running Injuries

Three weeks ago, I got out of bed and noticed that my right heel was really sore. That’s strange, I thought. I wonder if I stepped on a stone. Over the next few days, I kept running and noticed that it was getting progressively worse. Then it dawned on me. Could this be the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis illustration by HeelThatPain

I immediately looked it up on Wikipedia. It said,

Plantar fasciitis, formerly known as “policeman’s heel,” is a painful inflammatory condition caused by excessive wear to the plantar fascia of the foot or biomechanical faults that cause abnormal pronation of the foot. The pain usually is felt on the underside of the heel, and is often most intense with the first steps of the day.

Those were my exact symptoms.

The first thing I did was to stop running. The repetitive impact on my foot was only aggravating the condition. I have continued working out, but now I am using the elliptical machine or a stationary bike. (As a side benefit, this has finally got me doing cross-training, something I should have been doing since I started running more than a year ago.)

Next, I went to Fleet Feet Sports in Brentwood. Jeff Wells, the proprietor, was a big help to me. He thought my chances of recovery were good, since I seem to have caught the problem early. He fitted me with some PowerStep insoles, which he said would give me more support for my arch.

He also sold me a Step Stretch device that I have been using religiously since I got it. I stretch each leg three times for forty-five seconds each, twice a day. It has really helped.

In addition, I have been periodically icing my foot. I found a reusable ice pack at Walgreens that has worked well.

However, I have still been unable to run. So, last week, I visited Adam Carter, a physical therapist here in Nashville who works with a lot of runners. He fitted me for some custom orthotics (shoe inserts). They came in on Wednesday, and I did my first workout with them yesterday.

Adam suggested that I keep using the elliptical machine or the for the next week. I have to break the orthotics in. I am hoping that I begin seeing improvement quickly.

If you are a runner, there are some import things you can do to avoid injuries. Here are my top five:

  1. Make sure your shoes are in good shape. You should keep a running log of your total miles. Shoes should be replaced every 300 miles.
  2. Stretch before and after you run. This is incredibly important. Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing this consistently, and I believe that is where my problems began.
  3. Don’t increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. So, for example, if you are running 12 miles a week (three miles, four times a week), you can safely add 1.2 miles the second week, but no more.
  4. Cross-train on an elliptical machine, stair machine, or a stationary bike. Cross-training will keep your aerobic level up without punishing your legs day after day.
  5. Engage in strength training. Strong muscles are important. They support you and make you less likely to become injured. This actually one of the reasons I often run barefoot
Question: What have I missed?

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