Running Injury Prevention

It has been shown that 30-79% of runners sustain running-related injuries. Causes of injury are variable, but the majority of running injuries are related to overuse (up to 65% of running injuries annually). Those with the highest risk of injury have limited or no running experience. Male and female runners generally have different risks with the sport. The knee and shin are the most common areas of injury in endurance athletes. This is associated with the repetitive impact forces in the lower body.

Possible causes of overuse injuries include: muscle weakness, faulty mechanics, muscle tightness, improper warm-up, nutrition deficiencies, psychological factors, and improper footwear. Though this handout focuses on proper stretching techniques before and after running, there are several other prevention strategies to consider before beginning a workout routine.


STRETCHING EXERCISES – loosen tight muscles and decrease your risk of injury.


Stretch to the point of a gentle pull and hold for 15-30 seconds.


Do 2-3 repetitions for a set, and perform at least one set daily while the muscles are warm.

Image depicting gastrocnemius stretch exercise.

Gastrocnemius Stretch

• Stand with your feet pointed forward.
• Keep your heels down and back leg straight.
• Slowly bend the front leg until you feel a gentle upper calf stretch in the back leg.

Image depicting soleus stretch exercise.

Soleus Stretch

• Stand with your feet pointed forward and heels down.
• Slowly bend the back knee until you feel a lower calf or heel stretch in that leg.

Image depicting toe drag stretch exercise.

Toe Drag (Tibialis Anterior)

• Take a step forward.
• With the back foot, drag your toes along the ground and hold in that position until you feel a stretch.

Image depicting standing quad stretch exercise.

Standing Quad Stretch

• Stand with one hand on an object to balance.
• Bend the knee you want to stretch until you can hold onto the ankle with your hand.
• Gently pull up and back until you feel a stretch in the front of the thigh.

Image depicting lunge stretch (hip flexors) exercise.

Lunge Stretch (Hip Flexors)

• Kneel on the leg that you're going to stretch.
• Squeeze your buttocks, and shift your hips forward until you feel a stretch along the front of your thigh.
• Don't lean over or twist your hips.

Image depicting runner's stretch (hamstrings) exercise.

Runner’s Stretch (Hamstrings)

• Sit with one leg outstretched and the other fully bent with foot placed on inner thigh.
• Slowly bend trunk forward over outstretched leg until you feel a stretch along the back of your thigh.

Image depicting standing hip stretch exercise.

Standing Hip Stretch

• Stand next to the wall with the leg you want to stretch closest to the wall and arm straight out.
• Cross the outside leg over and lean your hip into the wall keeping your arm straight.

Image depicting butterfly stretch exercise.

Butterfly Stretch (Groin)

• Sit with your back straight and knees bent.
• Place the soles of your feet together and push your knees toward the floor until a stretch is felt in inner thighs.


Buist, I., Bredeweg, S.W., Lemmink, K., van Mechelen, W., & Diercks, R.L. “Predictors of Running-Related Injuries in Novice Runners Enrolled in a Systematic Training Program: A Prospective Cohort Study.” The American Journal of Sports Medicine 38.2 (2010): 273-279.
Fields, K.B., Sykes, J.C., Walker, K.M., & Jackson, J.C. “Prevention of Running Injuries.” Curr Sports Med Rep 9.3 (2010): 176-182.
Messier, S.P., Legault, C., Schoenlank, C.R., Newman, J.J., Martin, D.F. & Devita, P. “Risk Factors and Mechanisms of Knee Injury in Runners.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 40.11 (2008): 1873-1879.