If you’ve dealt with arthritis pain of any kind, then you understand the frustration that it brings to everyday life. Running with arthritis can be difficult to navigate, and especially overwhelming in the beginning.
Is it okay to run with arthritis?
The first question most runners find themselves asking if they are navigating arthritis pain is whether or not it is safe to continue running with arthritis.
Exercise has been shown to promote flexibility and strength, increase energy and reduce joint pain. All of these benefits can be incredibly helpful for those who are battling arthritis pain.
Does running make arthritis worse?
Another question all runners want to know when facing an arthritis diagnosis is whether or not continuing to run will make their arthritis pain worse.
Luckily, again, we are happy to discover that most experts will tell you that the answer is no. However, in order to continue running and maintain optimal health with arthritis, it is important that you do so in a safe way. Whether you experience running arthritis in your knee, hip, ankles or elsewhere, it is still possible for you to run.
Listening to your body is always important for runners, but becomes even more important when you have arthritis. Running arthritis looks different for every person. Some might find that they are able to maintain high mileage or hard workouts, while others find that lowering the intensity helps them stay pain free.
9 Tips for Running with Arthritis
An arthritis diagnosis doesn’t mean that you have to stop running. Exercise – even impact sports such as running – have been shown to promote strength and flexibility, which can in turn reduce joint pain.
Keeping up a running habit will help manage pain and energy – but only if done so safely. Here are a few tips to continue running with arthritis and avoid pain for the long term.
Get fitted for shoes
Arthritis means that your body susceptible to inflammation and wear and tear within the joints. Knowing this, it’s important that you invest in running shoes with proper support and comfort.
Taking the time to get fitted for running shoes is a great way to ensure you find the perfect level of support for your foot type. Most running stores are able to professionally fit you within a matter of minutes, and help you learn what will best provide comfort and support during a run.
Consider softer terrain
Most of us regularly hit up the sidewalk or treadmill for our runs without a second thought. However, these types of terrain can often be harder on the joints when running, and especially painful for running arthritis in the knees.
Consider mixing up your training by incorporate different, softer terrains. Keep those treadmill or neighborhood runs, but swap out a few for trail running or an unpaved trail. This type of terrain provides a softer impact and uses different stabilizing muscles, which can help prevent any pain from overuse.
Strength and cross train regularly
Most runners have heard how important it is to strength train and cross train on a regular basis. However, this becomes even more important when you’re running with arthritis. Varying your activities each week not only prevent overtraining, but help strengthen the muscles around your joints.
Building muscle throughout your entire body is a beneficial way to protect your joints from the impact of running. Muscle makes the activity feel easier on your body, and can help reduce the chances of inflammation occurring from repeated impact.
Embrace rest days
Rest is important for everyone, but even more so when your body is fighting chronic or recurring inflammation. With running arthritis, you’ll want to incorporate regular rest days and really make the most of them in your training.
Avoid doing too much on rest days and really make a point to give your body time to recover. Spend time off your feet and include some recovery practices such as stretching or foam rolling to help enhance the process.
Stretch and warm up daily
If you experience running arthritis, you know how difficult it can be to get moving. After spending a long period of time sitting or standing in one place, it’s hard to just start moving. Stretching and warming up is important for all runners, but especially those who are running with arthritis in the hips or knees.
Spending even just 5 minutes completing some warm up exercises before your run will help loosen tight muscles and ease achy joints. Afterwards, dedicate 10-15 minutes to some post-run stretches to help avoid stiffness or tension that could build up.
Aim for proper form
Running with proper form is beneficial for all runners, but especially those with arthritis. Proper form helps avoid creating any extra unnecessary tension or impact throughout your run. Running form involves everything from the way you hold your head all the way down to your foot strike.
Take some time to evaluate your own running form and make any changes that are necessary. Aim for a midfoot strike and short stride to keep a fast cadence and avoid adding tension elsewhere. Practice proper posture, with a healthy arm swing and a relaxed neck and shoulders.
If you need to make changes to your form, it will likely take some time before those changes become a habit. However, taking the time to be intentional about your form and staying dedicated to making those changes will help running become easier and less painful in the future.
Consider changing your diet
Whether you have a type of running arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, or a more chronic type such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, making a few diet changes could be of benefit for you.
A substantial amount of research is beginning to show that plant-based, low inflammatory diets can greatly reduce the effects of all types of arthritis. These diets involve a high intake of water along with large amounts of anti-inflammatory foods.
Omega-3s are highly beneficial when it comes to reducing inflammation – especially those from plant-based sources, such as chia and flax seeds. Water is necessary for lubricating the joints, and essential for many healing processes within the body.
Consider doing further research, or simply making a few changes to your diet by removing some of the most inflammatory foods and/or adding some water or omega-3s to see how your body responds.
Practice recovery techniques
While running likely isn’t the cause of your arthritis, the continuous impact caused by the sport could certainly create more pain if you are not careful about how you recover. Runners with arthritis should always prioritize their recovery.
Just as it is helpful to warm up before a run, it can be incredibly helpful to cool down after one as well. Try an easy walk immediately after your run, and then transition into some gentle stretching or yoga.
Even just 10-15 minutes of recovery practices could help reduce the buildup of lactic acid or inflammation. If you’re looking to be really proactive, try different methods of hot or cold recovery. Ice baths or heating pads can be very beneficial for those who are running with arthritis.
Be flexible with your training
Staying active can be very helpful for maintaining energy levels and lubricating your joints. However, if you’re experiencing a bad flare or are in a great deal of pain, it might be a sign that you need to take a rest day.
When running with arthritis, it’s more important than ever to listen to your body. Accept the fact that your body might not always be up for a run, and that this means you might have to adjust your original plan.
Be flexible with your training and open to swapping in a rest day or cross training day whenever you need it. Remember that you are running in order to feel better – so if you ever find that a run makes you’re body feel worse, it’s time to take a break.
An arthritis diagnosis doesn’t mean that you have to stop running. Taking the time to approach the sport with intention will help you reap the benefits of staying active.