How to beat injury this summer

Contrary to the popular saying, pain is not always the name of the game. In fact, it really should never be the name of any game, sport or activity.

Still, year after year, the pain train finds a way to derail some of our best summer plans when we least expect it. To start adventure season on the right foot, we've picked four of the most common outdoors ailments and given our recommendations on how to beat the hurt this summer.

Blisters

Steer clear of wet shoes to keep the blisters at bay. Photo: Dominik Martin/Unsplash

These painful little elevations can fell even the strongest of hikers, runners and adventurers in your circle. To avoid falling victim to one of the most common trail discomforts, make sure to break your shoes in a couple of times around the house or take them on an errand run.

If you identify a spot of irritation, cover it in adhesive moleskin (it can be bought at your local pharmacy) to reduce friction in problem areas. Too expensive for your taste? Duct tape makes a worthy alternative.

Better yet, pay attention to your sock game. Cotton socks have thick seams and hold sweat, increasing friction and irritation in your shoe. Invest in a good pair of moisture-wicking merino wool that comes up above the edge of your shoe (don’t let the cuff of your boot or shoe rub against raw skin) like the Smartwool PhD Outdoor Light Mini and keep your feet happy for miles.

Chafing

Take a lesson from the pros: Fewer seams and better material means less chafe and chap. Photo: Quino Al/Unsplash

It can happen over many miles or just a quick track workout, but when skin starts to rub raw, being active gets a whole lot less fun.

To keep chafing to a minimum, pay attention to your threads. Opt out of your typical cotton T-shirt and find a moisture-wicking fabric that will prevent salt crystal buildup (and the friction that comes with it) in areas like your armpits and groin.

Avoid clothing with seams that might dig into skin, like a pair of cargo shorts on a long hike or standard gym shorts on a jog. Try to steer away from built-in liners, and throw on a pair of compression shorts under your regular shorts instead.

If all else fails (and maybe even before it does), remember that anti-chafe products like Vaseline, Bag Balm and Body Glide are your friends. Throw some lubricant on problem areas and keep your exercise machine running smoothly all summer long.

IT band syndrome

Rutty trails and old running shoes could be the root of your IT band blues. Photo: David Marcu/Unsplash

The pain starts at your knee and slowly sneaks its way up the outside of your leg. Before you know it, even the simplest movements become unbearable and your activity season is shot.

Believe us, you’re not alone. IT band pain and tightness is a common injury, but one of the least understood.

Hold pain at bay by avoiding rutty or uneven surfaces, as these cause your knee to turn inward and stretch the problem area. Another culprit is worn-out running shoes, so make sure you have switched out your pair within the last six months.

If pain is still lingering, consider a compression strap just under your kneecap, which helps alleviate pressure on the area and reduce pain up the leg.

Shin splints

Move your road running to the trail to avoid shin splints. Photo: Martin van den Heuvel/Unsplash

Just when you’re starting to feel good on your feet, a little fire starts in the front of your calf muscle, and by mile two your whole lower leg is barking.

Shin splints suck, and they’re one of the most common overuse injuries out there.

While it’s hard to treat in the moment, they can be prevented, especially with diligent stretching. Moving away from hard surfaces like tracks and asphalt can also help, so embrace the trail run or the loop around your local park.

Still worried? Look into a compression sleeve for your lower leg to keep muscle and bone working in harmony rather than causing headache.

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