Ten Top Tips for Injury-free Running

author : ChiRunning
comments : 0

Running does not cause injury. Poor running form does. Running is more enjoyable, and safer if you know what you’re doing. And yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks.

By Danny Dreyer
B.T.com Running Guru

Running does not cause injury. Poor running form does. When I tell people that I teach running technique, I inevitably hear the story of a once-upon-a-time runner who “had” to stop because they were getting older and getting injured. The knees are the number one reason why most people quit their once-loved sport. Shin splints are another frequent culprit. Sometimes it's that it just got “too painful.” I also often hear about how people would secretly like to run, but they're afraid they'll hurt themselves. The answer in most cases is, NO, you’re not too old and running is NOT dangerous, if you run correctly. ChiRunning teaches you how.

Running is more enjoyable, and safer if you know what you’re doing. And yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks. I can’t tell you how many letters I get from people telling me that making one or two simple changes has had a profound effect on their running. Now, for most people, one or two simple changes won’t prevent injury for a lifetime, but regular, committed practice to improving your running form can.

Below is a list of the top ten tips to help you prevent injuries when you're running. Once a month for the next six months we'll expand on each of these topics and help your running leg to be safer easier and, yes, faster too.

Top Ten Running Tips to Prevent Injury

  1. Listen to your body and pay attention to pain.

  2. When in pain, discern its origin and change your running form.

  3. Improve, perfect and maintain your posture.

  4. Keep your center of gravity in front of your foot strike.

  5. Upgrade your running program gradually.

  6. Land on your mid-foot, not the heel or ball of your foot.

  7. Start off every run slowly to warm up.

  8. Shorten your stride, shorten your stride, shorten your stride.

  9. Don’t wear old running shoes.

  10. Do deep, slow stretches after your run. Not short, bouncy ones.

1. Listening to your body means just that listening. I call it Body Sensing. Most people don’t listen to what's going on inside of themselves. From children we’ve been trained not to ignore our bodily warning signs most often thanks to advertising. “Don’t pay attention to a gassy, horrible stomach from eating too much, just drink our disgusting pink stuff.” “Headache? Why not pop our pill (rather than get away from your computer and get some fresh air and put us out of business).” “Are you having a stabbing knee pain during your marathon? Take these pills and go see your surgeon on Monday.” I say just the opposite. Get to know every nuance of your body. Pay attention to every detail. Learn the different voices of pain, just as a mother can tell whether her child’s cry is of hunger, anger or sleepiness. If the pain you feel is other than productive discomfort, got to step number 2. Your body will tell you all that you need to know if you just listen to it.

2. If you’re in pain when running then learn what you’re doing wrong and make a correction. That’s right. If you you’re in pain you can almost always do something about it. If your hips are aching, you most likely need to level your pelvis and engage your core muscles. If you’re knee hurts, it could be several things, but find out and make a change. You might be over striding or landing in front of your center of gravity or pronating. All these things can be dealt with by making the necessary adjustments to your movement patterns. When you take corrective action you can, in most cases, alleviate the pain and prevent long term injury.

3. OK, good posture is everything, whether it's in yoga, dance, singing or T’ai Chi. Posture is important in all movement as far as I can tell. By creating a strong centerline, all movement has a better chance of being correct. Your posture forms the foundation for your skeletal structure. It is your centerline. Everything moves up and down your spine. If you’re crooked, it all comes out crooked. If you’re long, strong and tall (even if you’re short) your chi can flow through that straight pipe. Your posture affects your breathing, your movement and your digestion. Perfecting your posture is fundamental to being pain-free and injury-free while running.

4. In ChiRunning we teach you to lean from your ankles so that your center of gravity is always in front of your foot strike. If your foot hits the ground in front of your center of gravity, you’re putting on the brakes and really pounding every joint from your ankle on up. Plantar faciitus, shin splints, knee pain, hip pain and lower back pain can all originate from the pounding of your foot strike stopping your forward momentum, which is what happens when your foot strikes in front of your center of gravity. Let your legs and feet sweep out behind you. Let your upright posture lean slightly forward, ahead of your foot strike. And let gravity, not your legs, pull you forward.

5. Life may be short, but there is really plenty of time to accomplish what’s most important. It is very important to follow the path of gradual progress whether you're learning something new, upgrading your running program, or adding speed or distance to a run. If you try to do to much too soon, you’re writing a recipe for injury! If your longest run is five miles, don’t try to run a half-marathon in three months. Six months is more like it. If you’re learning to improve your running technique, don’t expect to perfect it in the next month. Pushing and forcing your body to a goal is a good way to get hurt. Set reasonable goals and take your time. Savor your experience and enjoy the process. You’ll run well for the rest of your life if you take your time now.

6. Land on your mid-foot, not on your heels or on the ball of your foot. Let's have a basic physics lesson here. If you land on your heels, it means that you're running with the brakes on. Look at the soles of your running shoes and you'll probably see the telltale signs of braking. The rubber begins to disappear from the heels your shoes. Sometimes it gets so thin that the mid-sole begins to show through. If this is the case for you, you could be on the path to a knee injury caused by all the force of the road traveling up your leg while the force of your body is coming down to meet it usually in the vicinity of your knee. Your knees were designed to be hinges, not shock absorbers. For the solution, go directly to number 4.

If you tend to land on the balls of your feet you'll be overworking your calves and ankles because your lower legs are supporting your entire body weight with each footstep. This is extremely stressful on your calves and can lead to shin splints an injury all too familiar to many "toe runners."

7. Start your run slowly and work on the details of your running form while running slowly and then let speed work it’s way into your loosened up, warmed up, relaxed body. Take your time getting started, like a book, let your run unfold and let your body speak to you before you ask it to go fast. When starting a run, listen to where you are tight. Check in to see if your core is engaged fully. Let your short, crisp stride get your heart going without stressing out the joints, muscles and ligaments in your legs. Then, let gravity take you for a ride by increasing your lean slightly, and gracefully letting your stride lengthen as speed happens. You’ll won’t get injured this way, and you’ll be amazed at how much more energetic you fill later in your run.

8. Most people start out running with too long of a stride. I see people all the time, warming up with a stride length that I only use at higher speeds. With a long, lumbering stride you’ll tend to reach forward with your legs causing a heavy heel strike. You’ll also be wasting your energy by spending too much time with contact with the ground. Over-striding can lead to plantar faciitus, shin splints and lower back pain. With a shorter stride, you'll feel energetic and brisk instead of heavy and lethargic.

9. Old running shoes are worse than running barefoot. I’m not a barefoot runner, but I respect those who do run barefoot. That's because barefoot running forces you to have great running form. I prefer to run with shoes, but not old ones. The material hardens, the shoe loses flexibility and injury is often the result. Find a good flexible shoe and get a new pair about every 500 miles. Shoes are very important, so invest your time and money in finding out what works best for you.

10. I don’t believe in stretching before runs. Instead, I do my loosening exercises before I run and stretch afterwards. The post-run stretching needs to have some quality to it. Short, bouncy stretches are not only ineffective, they can cause injury. Think yoga. A good stretch should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds. You can move and adjust within that stretch by doing slight adjustments, but stretching is the perfect time to practice your Body Sensing skills. Don’t push your stretch too far. Take your time and relax into a deep place of flexibility. Listen to what your muscles are telling you after your run. If you’re calves are tight, you may be using them too much on the run. If your shoulders are now moving more easily, then your run did the job of loosening you up.

These are just a few of things you can do to help put to sleep the myth that running causes injury.


©ChiRunning® Danny Dreyer www.ChiRunning.com  1-866-327-7864

Danny Dreyer is the creator of ChiRunning® a revolutionary form of running that blends the subtle inner focuses of T'ai Chi with running to form a very smooth and efficient, low-impact form of running. It is based on his study of Tai Chi with Master Zhu Xilin and internationally renowned Master George Xu, and his 33 years of running experience.


Click on star to vote
31249 Total Views  |  45 Views last 30 days  |  11 Views last 7 days
date: July 17, 2005


ChiRunning combines the inner focus and flow of T'ai Chi with the power and energy of running to create a revolutionary running form and philosophy that takes the pounding, pain, and potential damage out of the sport of running. The ChiRunning program increases mental clarity and focus, enhances the joy of running, and turns running into a safe and effective lifelong program for health, fitness, and well-being.


ChiRunning combines the inner focus and flow of T'ai Chi with the power and energy of running to create a revolutionary running form and philosophy that takes the pounding, pain, and potential damage out of the sport of running. The ChiRunning program increases mental clarity and focus, enhances the joy of running, and turns running into a safe and effective lifelong program for health, fitness, and well-being.

View all 7 articles