Book Now

The Pain-Free Runner – Part 1

achilles ankle mobility blog hamstrings injury low back pain mobility pain free runner plantar fasciitis resources running sciatic nerve strength training weight training Feb 24, 2021

Running is one of the most common forms of exercise around the world. People run for many different reasons: To improve their health, lose weight, have fun, be part of a community, movement meditation, and so much more.

 It is readily accessible to nearly everyone, with minimal need for expensive gear and equipment. 

However, a big problem with running is that for newer athletes, it has a tremendously high injury rate compared to other forms of athletics. Running with bad technique breaks the tissues down over time. It roots out the weakest tissues and exploits them, and over the course of time, injury occurs.

Make no mistake about it though, runners don’t have to get injured and quit an activity they love, regardless of their age, fitness level or advice from friends, family or even health professionals.  Done properly, running is one of the safest and best forms of exercise you can do for overall well-being and health.

"Done properly, running is one of the safest and best forms of exercise you can do for overall well-being and health."

We're here to explain how to avoid those injuries and continue exercising the way you love to. 

Click Here To Download Our Pain-Free Running Guide


High Injury Risk

Running injuries are like fingerprints. They are dependent on each individual, and extremely unique.

An example I use when talking to runners: If you are on the savannah watching cheetahs run, they all run the same. No variations, unless they have been injured.

However, if you watch the finish line at your local half marathon for an hour, you’ll see that is not the case for humans. You’ll see every type of running pattern and crazy technique out there.

Is that bad? Should all humans run the same? No. Cheetahs don’t have desk jobs, car accidents, surgical histories and vastly differing BMI scores. So for anyone to lay down a blanket statement that there is one particular stride, foot strike, cadence or tempo is just not feasible. 

What I am going to tell you is that runners, by and large, have some very stereotypical injuries. Those injuries mostly stem from the same issues and just present themselves in a number of different way.

Plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, patellofemoral pain, ITB syndrome, low back pain, and even scapular pain basically result from the amount of sitting we do in our daily lives.

Sitting has a price. I don’t ask people to quit their jobs and become a shepherd, but to put time into the daily exercises they need to keep themselves in the game. 

Key factors like training history, past injuries, and recovery all play huge roles in the likelihood of getting hurt. We don’t often realize that when we run, our bodies experience loads 2-3 times our body weight with each step.

And the load is even more with speedwork. Often, what leads to injury is that load occurring very quickly, and we don’t always interpret that sensation very well.

In fact, exercise, in general, reduces our interpretation of pain during and after the exercise. On top of that, endurance athletes tolerate that pain better than strength athletes. 

One thing we must consider is that this kind of stress isn’t always bad. In fact, to improve at all as an athlete, that stress is essential to become a stronger, fitter athlete. So we have to walk a fine line with our training. Too much stress = injury. Not enough stress = plateaus

So how can we reduce our risk of running injuries? I’m glad you asked.

We’re going to cover three big topics: movement standards, strength training, and recovery. 



For the most common type of injuries, runners have some pretty typical faults. Let’s take a look at each.


Click Here To Download Our Pain-Free Running Guide

The Big Toe 

Slow your running cadence down to super slow motion. What is the last part of your foot touching the ground before your foot swings forward for the next step? Hopefully, it is the tip of your big toe.

We often don’t think about that part of our foot during our running cadence but it is crucial. If your big toe is stiff, the result will be that your entire foot will turn out laterally and you’ll roll off the inside part of that toe.

This starts a cascade of bad positions up your kinetic chain (read: leg) that will ultimately result in an overuse injury. We want your foot to be flexible and adaptive to whatever surface you are running on, not some rigid 2x4 block of wood like Pinocchio clopping out a 5k. 


Your ankles are probably a lot stiffer than you think. They are the workhorse of our legs and we don’t give them the credit or love they deserve. Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and shin splints all occur because our calves are too tight.

Our calves get so tight because most of us sit a good portion of the day at work, wear shoes with elevated heels and sleep with our toes pointed toward the end of the bed. Now you don’t have to stop doing any of those things, but if you want to steer clear of injury we have to dedicate some time to care for them.

“Hamstring Tightness”

So often, we treat people with “tight hamstrings” that have been stretching their hamstrings for years all with no improvements or gains in mobility. How can that be?

Well, for most of our runners, they are focusing their time on the wrong tissues. Our sciatic nerve is a big nerve, about the diameter of your pinkie, running down the back of your leg.It lives in a little channel between your different muscle groups, (including the hamstrings), splits into two major chains, and eventually runs all the way down to your toes. Many times, people misinterpret nerve tension for hamstring tightness. So all of those 30 second stretches to your hamstrings are not going to touch that sensation.  



Strength deficits are a major contributor or running dysfunction. These areas of weakness are what land most runners on the couch and off the pavement.


Click Here To Download Our Pain-Free Running Guide


Glute Amnesia

We have big, powerful muscles attached to the back of our pelvis. We were meant to be up walking most of the day, hunting and gathering.

Well, most of us haven’t hunted or gathered anything in a very long time. Instead, we sit on these big powerful muscles most of the day. The result is an all too common diagnosis of “Mushy Tushy.”

When we are sitting on these muscles, moving in a single plane (forward only), or not doing specific strength training, we lose our ability to turn those muscles on and stabilize the pelvis. The result can be low back pain, knee pain, sciatica, and even Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis. 

Achilles Strength

Some of the most common running injuries occur at the foot and ankle. Many times this is because we get impatient in our training and want to ramp up our training too much, too soon.

The result... majorly overloading the tissues of our feet and calves. Load is needed and necessary — your body will adapt to those loads and you will become stronger — but proper progression is key.

Besides running, exercises like jumping rope, box jumps and speedwork over the course of your training will help those tissues adapt to the demands of running. 

Weight Training

I know there is often a big collective eye roll when runners hear that they should be in the weight room, but it is true. Increasing tissue capacity is likely to be the largest benefit of resistance training to reduce injury risk.

In addition, other tissues in the body, such as tendons and bones, respond positively to the same stimuli. The stronger all these tissues are, the more impact forces they will tolerate before failure, which should result in less running related injuries. 

Our goal should be global strength for our entire body. It makes us more resilient to injury.

In fact, a recent study concluded that just 13 minutes of strength training three times per week for 8 weeks was enough to stimulate the strength gains needed for runners. What's more, the men who did only one set of the designated exercises gained as much strength as those who had done three or five sets!

The big takeaway is that runner’s with good mobility and strength don’t get hurt as often. So take a day off of your running schedule and get into the gym or grab a kettlebell and work out at home.

Click Here To Download Our Pain-Free Running Guide



Running may have a high injury rate for novices compared to other forms of exercise, but it also has one of the lowest barriers to entry. 

Running injury rates are likely so high because of our poor perception of the loads we are undertaking. The single most important factor for avoiding running-related injury is proper progression, and ensuring you have the proper tools to minimize your risk for injury. If you need more guidance in determining if you are meeting the standards, reach out

This is just your introduction to becoming a resilient athlete. Proper recovery through avenues like sleep and nutrition are also key factors in ensuring your life as a Pain-Free Runner. These topics can get pretty involved, so stay tuned for part 2 of our Pain-Free Runner's guide.