The Most Common Mistakes Runners Make: Are You Wasting Your Time on that Jog?

Whatever level of experience you have as a runner, valuable information should be utilized so that you can get the most out of your next workout. Footwear, schedule, upper body mechanics, and stride are just a few areas where many runners can improve to increase the effectiveness of their workout.

Running can be a touchy subject:  you either love it or hate it.  Maybe you’d like to improve your speed or distance, maybe you just want to be able to run for a minute straight without stopping! Whatever level of experience you have as a runner, valuable information should be utilized so that you can get the most out of your next workout. There’s lots of debate regarding the best way to run but we can ALL agree that we don’t want to be wasting our time out there!

Female Runner x900

Proper Footwear

Footwear can range from Barefoots to Hoka’s and everything in between.  Here are Runner’s world 6 tips when buying the right shoe:

  1. Heel and in-step should feel snug and secure. 
  2. For width, your foot should be able to move side-to-side but not feel like its going over the edge
  3. There should be a thumb’s distance from the tip of your toes to the top of the shoe.  
  4. The shoe should bend where your foot bends.  In other words, when gripping the heel and pressing the top part of the shoe into the ground, it should flex where your foot does when standing on your toes. 
  5.  It is recommended to buy new shoes every 300-500 miles. 
  6. Buy a shoe appropriate for your type of arch.  If you have a high arch, buy a more flexible shoe.  If you have no arch, buy a more rigid shoe.  Neutral is somewhere in between (2).

Training Schedule

Going from no running to running every day will likely get you in trouble!  Easing into running and allowing your body to get acclimated into a new activity is important, even if at one point you were a seasoned runner.  Start slow.  

Drinking about half of your body’s weight in ounces of water throughout the day is very important.  Once you become dehydrated, you will constantly be playing catch up. For nutrition, it’s important to fuel the body for the work you want it to perform.  Check the ratio of macronutrients you are consuming before and after workouts.  If you have an intense workout, it’s important to replenish the glycogen stores with carbohydrates and protein (3). 

Upper Body Mechanics

Having a strong core is important for posture stabilization and limiting the side-to-side or rotational movements during running.  Excessive movement accelerates fatigue.  Having strong arms keeps your body upright and propels you forward and improves your lung capacity.  The greater your lung capacity, the longer, faster, and harder you will be able to run (1).


Stride refers to where the foot is making contact with the ground.  Your foot should make contact directly below your center of gravity.  This allows you to put the most vertical forces into the ground, which is also a factor in increasing overall speed. Keep your lean slightly forward and have a quick and effective knee drive to set your foot up to land in the correct spot.  A suggestion for improving form would be to videotape yourself running.  Being able to provide yourself with instant feedback is quite valuable.  Be patient, because making changes to your form can take time due to your muscles needing to learn something new (4).  


Finally, what should you be doing on the days you aren’t running?  If you are trying to be an effective runner but all you’re doing is running, you are not reaching your full potential.  Runners often shy away from strength training because they are afraid that gaining muscle will slow them down.  That couldn’t be further from the truth!  Simply running does not make your legs or arms stronger in the way your muscles need to be to be able to support you.  Focus on your ankles and calves, the external rotators of the hip and glutes, the core and your postural muscles (1).

Running or jogging does not have to be a daunting task.  With the right tools you can hit the pavement with confidence and ease.  Hopefully throughout this article you have learned a few things to either improve your running regimen or give you the motivation to start up a routine.  Remember to honor whatever stage you are in and listen to your body.


  4. Buechner, Michelle, "Gait Intervention for Improvements in Human Top Speed Running" (2015). Graduate Student eses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 4528.

About the Author

Michelle is an Industrial Sports Medicine Professional for InSite Health. She has been a practicing Board-Certified Athletic Trainer for about 5 years with a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and a master’s degree in Health and Human Performance from the University of Montana. Prior to the industrial setting, Michelle worked in the collegiate setting.

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