How To Run Pain-Free
9 Simple Ways to Eliminate Injuries and Pain Forever
Running doesn't have to hurt. Whether it's the occasional lower back tweak, the lingering tight ankles, or the chronic sore knee, we've all been told "it just happens as you get older," or something like that. The good news is you can make some relatively simple changes to your running technique, and banish those little injuries for good. So here are the top nine tips for running without injury or pain.
Image used under Creative Commons from mtsofan
#1 - Go Forward
The single most important piece of running advice I ever heard was to shift my weight forward onto the balls of my feet. This doesn't mean you should go up on your tip-toes, but you need to stop landing on your heels. Heel-striking sends the impact from the ground directly into your bones. If you land on the forefoot, the muscles in your feet, ankles, and calves will absorb the impact, saving your joints from injury.
#2 - Go Lightly
Shorten your stride and increase your cadence to 180 steps per minute minimum. Your Achilles tendon and other connective tissue in your feet have a natural elasticity that is activated when stretched very quickly. In other words, the quicker your foot leaves the ground after touching it, the more bouncy the tendons and ligaments in your feet. Take advantage of this.
#3 - Go Outside
Treadmills are convenient, but to really get a feel for how your body moves, you need to actually move your body. I'm not saying you need to run on some goat trail in the middle of nowhere, but get used to the feel of your feet working off real ground.
#4 - Go Awkward
Lean forward until you feel like you're about to fall on your face. It might take a while to get used to this, but keeping your center of gravity ahead of your feet will create forward momentum by using gravity. Then, your legs won't need to expend energy pushing or pulling your body - they only need to catch you from falling. I realize this might seem ridiculous, but I promise you it works.
#5 - Go Backward
Stop pulling your knees up toward your chest, and start kicking your feet back behind you. This will make it easier to absorb the impact of the road with your muscles instead of your bones.
#6 - Go Fast
When learning something new, it can often be a good idea to go slowly at first, then build up speed later. With these improved running techniques, though, the opposite is usually true. For most of us, it's more natural to lean forward and keep our weight on the front of our feet when sprinting as opposed to jogging. Try it out if you're having trouble with the other tips.
#7 - Go Barefoot
Or at least ditch those traditional running shoes for something without a thick heel cushion. The reason is that the cushion encourages heel-striking. If you're wearing a pair of minimalist shoes or going barefoot, heel-striking gets uncomfortable really fast.
Barefoot Style Running... - Without the Barefoot
If you're ready to ditch the conventional running shoes for something new, try some of these.
#8 - Go Downhill
The fastest way to get used to running on the forefoot and leaning forward is to find a gentle downward slope and run down without letting your heels touch. If you’re completely new to this style of running, there’s a good chance the muscles in your feet and ankles are underdeveloped. If that’s the case, take it easy here; just do a few quick sprints downhill and call it a day.
#9 - Go Easy
The idea with all of these tips is to learn to work with your body's mechanics, not against them. Running is a complex movement, but it's also a natural and efficient one. Let go of the tension, relax into it, and have fun.
Here's another explanation, complete with violin accompaniment!
If you're interested in learning more about the importance of technique in running, be sure to check out the Pose Method. This is the definitive guide on correct running, and it gives you plenty of drills to improve your form.