Running (Care of the Young Athlete)

View spanish version, share, or print this article.

Running, as a sport, can involve a number of
different forms, including the following:

  • Cross-country. A sport in which
    teams of runners compete on long-distance road running courses.

  • Track and field. A sport that
    includes track events, like sprints, distance running, hurdles, and
    relays, and field events that involve throwing and jumping.

  • Marathon. A long-distance
    (about 26 miles) road running event.

  • Triathlon. A 3-part event that
    includes swimming, cycling, and running. Distances vary depending on the
    age of the athletes.

Running injuries are common and there can be a
variety of causes. Running injuries can be caused by improper training (for
example, doing too much too fast), mechanical problems (for example, high arch
or flat foot), or previous injuries. Other causes may be the environment (for
example, uneven or hilly terrain; hot or cold weather conditions) or previous
injuries. While not all injures can be prevented, the risk of injuries can be

The following is information from the American
Academy of Pediatrics about how to prevent running injuries. Also included is a
list of common running injuries.

General injury prevention and safety tips

  • Sports physical exam.
    Athletes should have a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE) to
    make sure they are ready to safely begin the sport. The best time for a
    PPE is about 4 to 6 weeks before the beginning of the season. Athletes
    also should see their doctors for routine well-child checkups.

  • Fitness. Athletes should
    maintain a good fitness level during the season and off-season.
    Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and sport-
    specific conditioning. Also important are proper warm- up and cool-down

  • Technique. Athletes should
    learn and practice safe techniques for performing the skills that are
    integral to their sport. Athletes should work with coaches and athletic
    trainers on achieving proper technique.

  • Nutrition. Eating healthy
    and the right amount of calories is important. A good rule to follow is
    to eat an extra 100 calories for every mile run.

Cross-country/track injuries and prevention and safety tips

Injury Tips
  • Running shoes should
    fit properly. (See “Foot type.”)

  • Running shoes should
    be changed every 6 months or 300 to 500 miles.

Overuse Injuries

  • Shin splints (lower
    leg pain)

  • Stress fractures of
    the lower leg or foot

  • Tendonitis of the
    knee and ankle

  • Severe’s
    disease (an inflammation of the growth plate that
    causes pain in the heel)

  • Plantar fasciitis (a
    common cause of heel pain under the arch of the

  • Athletes should
    begin a strengthening program that works on the
    hips, buttocks, abdominal, knee, and ankle

  • Cross-train with
    other activities such as water jogging and
    elliptical trainers.

  • Athletes should
    begin a stretching program that works on the hips,
    thighs, calves, and back of the legs.

  • Balancing exercises
    should be incorporated.

  • Athletes should run
    on soft, even surfaces whenever possible (flat dirt
    or grass surfaces are best).

  • Athletes should
    increase their weekly mileage by no more than 10%
    (for example, if you currently run 20 miles, only
    increase to 22 miles the next week).

  • Limit speed work to
    1 to 2 days per week.

Exercise-associated diarrhea
  • Limit how much fiber
    is eaten 24 hours before an event.

Marathon and triathlon injuries and prevention and safety tips

Injury Tips
  • Triathlon
    participation by children and teens should be
    limited to shorter, age-appropriate distances.

  • Children and teens
    should not be encouraged to participate in
    marathons, and youth records should not be kept to
    avoid encouragement.

Heat or cold injuries
  • Proper hydration
    with cool water and sports drinks is important.
    Athletes should determine their individual sweat
    rate, then replace every pound lost with 16 to 20
    ounces of fluid.

Sweat rate=Pre-workout weight – Post 1-hour
workout weight.

  • Athletes should not
    run, bike, or swim in extreme hot or cold

  • Proper calorie
    intake is important. In addition, runners should get
    1,300 mg of calcium per day (1,500 mg for females
    with no menstrual period).

Menstrual irregularities in female athletes
  • Female athletes
    should keep track of their menstrual periods. They
    should see a doctor if they start to miss menstrual

Foot type

To determine your foot type, wet the bottom of
your foot and step on a piece of cardboard. Match the imprint with the choices
in the table below.

Foot Problem Shoe

Flat foot

Overpronation Motion control

Normal arch


High arch

No shock absorption Cushioned