Each day, millions of Americans put on a pair of running shoes and head outside for a brisk run or jog. Every year, about 175,000 of them hurt themselves and end up in hospitals, clinics, and emergency rooms.

In an effort to bring that number down, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has come out with some tips on how to stay on the road and out of the ER:
  • Always take time to warm up and never forget to stretch. Studies have shown that cold muscles are more prone to injury. Warm up with jumping jacks, stationary cycling, or running or walking in place for 3 to 5 minutes. Then stretch slowly and gently, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.
  • Make sure your running shoes offer good shock absorption and both stability and cushioning. There should be a thumbnail's width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Buy shoes at the end of the day when the foot is the largest.
  • If you run up to ten miles per week, consider replacing your shoes every nine to 12 months. Sixty percent of a shoe's shock absorbing ability is lost after 250-500 miles of use.
  • Whenever possible, run on a smooth, resilient, even and reasonably soft surface. Avoid running on hills, which increases stress on the ankle and foot. When running on curved surfaces, change directions so that you have even pressure on both feet during the run.
Oskar Weg, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in New York City who is also an avid runner, stresses the need to do pre-running stretching. "Spend at least one fourth of the time that you plan to run in stretching exercises. Devote time to each muscle group, concentrating on the hamstrings and Achilles tendons in particular," stated Dr. Weg.

Runners should also start at a slow pace and progressively get up to speed. Avoid rapid acceleration and decelerate gradually with a long post run walk.

Commenting on these tips for TheDoctor, New York orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Turtel said, "The bottom line is moderation and common sense. In essence, listen to your body; certainly people should not try to 'run through' any pain that they might experience."

Of course, if you do "run into trouble" and sustain a common running injury such as a muscle strain, sprain or fracture, be sure to seek medical care immediately and, if necessary, follow up with an orthopaedic surgeon.

Reviewed by Andrew Turtel, M.D.