12 Common Running Mistakes to Avoid

March 18, 2024

Nick Hancock
New runner in a park

Whether you're a new runner looking to seek out the health benefits of running, or an experienced one looking to level up your form, it's easy to fall into some of the most common running mistakes that can hinder your progress and potentially lead to injuries!

Even the most seasoned runners can sometimes overlook these common mistakes, which is why it's crucial to stay vigilant and continually refine your technique. Let's take a look at some of the common running mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Not Warming Up Properly

So many runners overlook the importance of warming up properly before a run, which can lead to potential injuries and suboptimal performance. A proper warm-up helps to gradually increase your heart rate, body temperature, and blood flow to the muscles, preparing your body for the physical demands of running.

It's recommended to start with some light cardio exercises, such as walking or jogging in place, for a few minutes. This can be followed by dynamic stretches that mimic the movements involved in running, such as leg swings, high knees, and butt kicks. These dynamic stretches help to increase your range of motion and flexibility, reducing the risk of strains or pulls during your run.

By taking the time to warm up properly, you'll be better prepared for your workout and less likely to experience discomfort or injury.

A person wearing a hoodie is sprinting on a bridge.

2. Overstriding

Most runners, whether training for an easy running session or a half marathon, tend to overstride, which can lead to injuries. Overstriding occurs when your foot lands ahead of your body's centre of mass, causing an excessive braking force with each stride.

This braking action places unnecessary stress on your joints, muscles, and connective tissues, increasing the risk of injuries like shin splints, knee pain, and stress fractures. To maintain a proper stride length, focus on landing your foot directly beneath your body's centre of mass.

Additionally, lean slightly forward from your ankles, not your waist, and keep your stride relaxed and compact. By avoiding overstriding, you'll reduce the impact forces on your body and improve your running efficiency.

3. Heel Striking

While many runners naturally land on their heels when they run, this can lead to excessive impact forces that travel up through the body. Heel striking can cause shin splints, knee pain, and even stress fractures over time.

Instead, it's better to aim for a midfoot or forefoot strike, where your foot lands closer to the ball of your foot. This lighter foot strike reduces the impact forces and allows for a smoother, more efficient running gait. If you're a heel striker, focus on leaning slightly forward and landing with your foot beneath your body's centre of mass.

Two individuals jogging on a hill during sunset.

4. Ignoring Proper Footwear

Wearing the wrong shoes or old running shoes can be detrimental to your running experience and increase the risk of injuries. Proper footwear is essential for runners, as it provides the necessary support, cushioning, and stability for your specific foot type and gait.

Running in shoes that are not suited for your feet can lead to issues such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee pain, and even stress fractures. It's crucial to invest in high-quality running shoes that are designed for your unique biomechanics.

Consider getting a professional shoe fitting at a specialized running store, where they can analyze your gait and recommend the best shoes for your needs. Don't compromise on footwear, as the wrong shoes can quickly sabotage your running progress and potentially sideline you with injuries.

5. Neglecting Strength Training

Neglecting strength training is a common mistake among runners, especially those focused solely on logging miles as part of their hard training or training plan. However, incorporating strength training exercises can provide numerous benefits for runners, including injury prevention and improved performance!

Strong muscles, particularly in the legs, core, and upper body, help to support your joints and prevent imbalances that can lead to overuse injuries. Additionally, strength training can improve your running economy, allowing you to run more efficiently and with better form.

Examples of effective strength exercises for runners include squats, lunges, planks, and exercises that target the glutes and hamstrings. It's also beneficial to incorporate exercises that mimic the running motion, such as step-ups or single-leg deadlifts. By including strength training in your routine, you'll become a stronger, more resilient runner with improved overall fitness.

A woman lifting two dumbbells in a gym, showcasing strength and determination.

6. Increasing Mileage Too Quickly

One of the biggest mistakes new runners make is increasing their mileage too quickly. The temptation to take on too many miles, too soon, can lead to overuse injuries and burnout. Your body needs time to adapt to the physical demands of running, and adding too much mileage too fast can overload your muscles, joints, and connective tissues.

Instead of piling on the miles rapidly, it's better to take a gradual approach. This slow and steady progression allows your body to strengthen and adapt to the increased workload.

Additionally, be sure to incorporate rest days into your training plan to allow for proper recovery. Rushing into high mileage before your body is ready can quickly derail your progress and lead to frustrating setbacks.

7. Not Listening To Your Body

Runners often get caught up in their training schedules and goals, leading them to overlook the important signals their bodies are sending. It's crucial to pay attention to any pain or discomfort you experience during or after a run.

Ignoring these warning signs can exacerbate minor issues into more serious injuries that may require extended time off from running. If you feel persistent pain or discomfort, it's wise to take a break and allow your body to recover. Rest days are an essential part of any training plan, as they give your muscles, joints, and connective tissues time to repair and rebuild.

Pushing through pain or skipping rest days can lead to overuse injuries, burnout, and setbacks in your progress. Listen to your body and respond accordingly, whether that means adjusting your training plan, seeking medical attention, or simply taking a few days off to recover.

A woman sprinting on a city street.

8. Improper Hydration and Fueling

Improper hydration and fueling is a common mistake among runners that can negatively impact performance and recovery. It is crucial to stay properly hydrated before, during, and after a run to maintain energy levels, prevent fatigue, and aid in muscle recovery.

Some tips for optimal performance include:

  • Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
  • Consume a light meal or snack with carbohydrates before running.
  • Consider energy gels or sports drinks for longer runs.
  • Rehydrate with water or electrolyte drinks post-run.
  • Include protein in your post-run meal or snack for muscle recovery.

By paying attention to your hydration and fueling needs, you can enhance your running performance and overall well-being during training sessions and running drills.

A woman hydrating herself after running by drinking water from a bottle.

9. Running through pain

One of the most dangerous mistakes a runner can make is to ignore pain or injuries and continue running through them. This approach often leads to further aggravation and more severe injuries that can sideline you for an extended period.

If you experience persistent pain or discomfort during or after your runs, it's crucial to listen to your body and take a break from running. Seek medical attention from a qualified professional, such as a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist, to properly diagnose and treat the issue before it worsens.

10. Neglecting Cross-training

While running is an excellent form of exercise, incorporating cross-training activities into your routine can provide numerous benefits. Cross-training helps to strengthen supporting muscles, improve overall fitness, and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

Low-impact options like cycling, swimming, or strength training can complement your running routine while allowing your body to recover from the high-impact nature of running. Additionally, cross-training can improve your overall athleticism and help you become a more well-rounded runner.

11. Improper breathing technique

Proper breathing technique is often overlooked by runners, but it plays a big role in maximizing performance and preventing fatigue. When running, it's important to establish a consistent breathing pattern that synchronizes with your stride.

Many runners find success with a rhythmic 2:2 or 3:3 breathing pattern, where they inhale for two or three steps and exhale for the same number of steps. This rhythmic breathing helps to ensure adequate oxygen delivery to your muscles and can also aid in relaxation and focus during your runs.

A person running on a road surrounded by grass and trees.

12. Lack of recovery

Lack of proper recovery is a mistake that can put too much stress on your body and hinder your progress as a runner. Adequate rest and recovery are essential for allowing your muscles, joints, and tissues to repair and rebuild after the demands of running.

Without sufficient recovery time, you increase your risk of overuse injuries, burnout, and plateaus in performance. After hard workouts or long runs, prioritize active recovery techniques like foam rolling and static stretching to promote blood flow and reduce muscle tightness.

Light activities like walking or easy cycling can also aid in the recovery process. Also, ensure that you're getting enough quality sleep, as this is when much of the body's repair and adaptation occurs. By prioritizing recovery, you'll be able to train harder, avoid setbacks, and ultimately become a stronger, more resilient runner.


By being mindful of proper technique, gradually increasing mileage, incorporating strength training and cross-training, listening to your body, and prioritizing recovery, you can maximize your performance and enjoyment of running.

If you're new to running or struggling with any of the mistakes discussed, consider seeking guidance from a professional running coach. A qualified coach can provide personalized running advice, training plans, and support to help you achieve your goals while avoiding common pitfalls.

An online running coach can help you avoid these mistakes and reach your running goals. Contact us today for a personalized training plan and elevate your running experience!

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