Running does not cause arthritis, but athletes are at risk of injury and pain if they run with incorrect posture, forget to warm up, or overexert themselves when they first start.
According to ScienceDirect, about 50% of runners get injured each year, with the most common injuries affecting the back and legs. Of these, 70-80% are injuries to the knees, ankles, feet, and calves due to overexertion or running too frequently.
Running incorrectly (such as maintaining poor posture or running too quickly) can damage the skeletal system, muscles, ligaments, and synovial fluid. These factors increase the risk of common injuries such as sprains, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, iliotibial band syndrome, and knee pain.
Here are six common running mistakes that many people make, which can lead to joint injuries and affect daily activities.
Warming up before any sports activity, especially running, is necessary to “awaken” the body, loosen the muscles and tendons, increase blood circulation to the limbs, and help the body adapt quickly to the intensity of running.
However, many people either neglect this step or warm up improperly (like warming up too little or applying too heavy movements), which reduces running performance, leads to disappointing results, and increases the risk of injury. Therefore, runners should spend about 10-15 minutes performing warm-up exercises such as knee bends, squats, thigh lifts, knee rotations, wrist and ankle rotations, and walking.
Incorrect Running Posture
Looking down at your feet while running, leaning your head forward, hunching your shoulders and back, clenching your fists or swinging your arms too hard, taking too high steps, overstriding, or landing with your whole foot are all postures that increase stress on the joints and can lead to injuries.
Therefore, when running, athletes should keep their heads up, look straight ahead, keep their backs straight, point their toes forward, and relax their shoulders and hands. Importantly, don’t force yourself to be perfect right from the start – let your body truly relax while running.
Increasing Distance and Speed Too Quickly
Forcing yourself to run long distances right from the start can lead to exhaustion, injury, and feelings of discouragement, making it easy to give up on future training sessions. Therefore, beginners should start by running short distances of about 8.8 – 10 km per week.
Running too quickly is a common mistake that can cause knee pain. Trying to cover long distances at a fast pace increases pressure on the joints, making them more prone to injury than when running at a steady, slow pace. To achieve effective running, it’s essential to develop an appropriate training schedule that includes slow runs, speed runs, and consistent pace runs.
Wearing Incorrect Shoes
Choosing running shoes that are too wide or tight, lacking in foot cushioning, trying on shoes at the wrong time of day, or buying for looks are common mistakes that compromise foot safety when running.
To optimize running performance, you should take the time to visit a store and choose shoes that fit well, are suitable for the terrain and running style, and consider other shoe features. After every 643-965km or about every six months of regular running, you should replace your shoes to ensure your feet are protected during running.
Ignoring Pain to Keep Running
For runners, sore muscles and joints require active rest. Particularly if there is pain in a specific location like the knee, ankle, or toe, it could be a sign of injury and you should stop running immediately.
According to a survey, out of every 1,000 runners, about a quarter reported that despite feeling pain before a race, they still pushed themselves to complete it. This is one of the reasons for poor running results and could even exacerbate the pain.
If joint pain persists without improvement after 72 hours, athletes should see a doctor for timely treatment.
The body typically needs about 30-40ml/kg of water a day. Running causes sweating, which leads to dehydration, so you need to increase fluid intake to compensate. However, some people resist thirst for too long, which can cause headaches, rapid heart rate, fatigue, and impact running results.
Dehydration can cause joint pain since 70-80% of joint cartilage is water. Synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints and creates a cushion so the bones don’t rub against each other, decreases when there’s not enough hydration, leading to dry, painful joints.
One way to check if you need to drink more water is to consider your urine’s color. If your urine is dark yellow after running, you should drink more water until it becomes light yellow.
Additionally, you should drink 500-700ml of water or other non-caffeinated drinks about an hour before running. Just before starting, you can drink 120-200ml of water to ensure your body has enough hydration for the run. If running long distances, athletes need to rehydrate midway.