Advice for Runners from Physical Therapist Dr. Karen Bonney

karenWhen I started training for my first full marathon, my biggest concern was preventing injury and getting through the race safely. I wanted to cross the finish line feeling awesome – not like I was just hit by a bus. Because of this, I decided to schedule a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) with Dr. Karen Bonney at Elite Performance and Rehab in Washington, DC.

The Functional Movement Screening is an assessment tool to observe human movement through a ranking and grading system. It is performed by a licensed physical therapist like Dr. Bonney who is certified in FMS. Particularly useful for athletes, this screening technique allows your therapist to assess where your body is strongest and weakest in order to provide an optimal recovery program.

Even though I didn’t have any existing injuries at the time, this assessment was still extremely beneficial for me. By identifying the weak and strong areas in my body, I was able to recognize the more vulnerable muscle groups and therefore prevent injury before it even started. For example, I learned that I needed to perform more barefoot balance exercises in order to strengthen my feet and ankles. I highly recommend the FMS for both new and experienced runners!

Being the nerd that I am, I recently decided to pick Dr. Bonney’s brain a little further regarding injury prevention for runners. She shared some valuable information with me, and I’m very excited to share it with all of you.

1. What are some of the most common injuries you see in runners?

Running injuries vary across the spectrum, but I often see overuse foot and hip/back injuries. 

2. What can runners do to prevent these common injuries?

Runners can prevent these common injuries with the proper balanced workout routine each week. This routine has a combination of running, hip/core strengthening, flexibility and mobility.

Remember, foam rolling is an important part of mobility training. You can learn a little about foam rolling here. Also, check out this video for some great hip flexor stretch ideas. Hip flexors are notoriously tight for many long distance runners!

3. Is there any particular type of exercise you would recommend in addition to running to prevent injury?

There is no magic exercise, but I would highly encourage runners to make sure that there is in fact a strengthening component to their weekly workout routines.

Check out a few of our recommended strengthening exercises here.

4. When done safely and correctly, should long distance running be pain free or is it normal to feel aches and pains during long runs?

Even when your training is done safely and correctly, there is always room for aches and pains to creep in during long runs. I think the most important part is understanding the difference between “good pain” and “bad pain.”

  • Sharp, acute pain that continues to increase throughout the run – is not good.
  • Pain that travels, radiates up or down a body part – is not good.
  • Numbness or tingling that continues to increase throughout the run – is not good.
  • Pain that makes you change your running mechanics throughout the run – is not good.

 All of the above examples are reason to seek out guidance and/or an evaluation from your local Physical Therapist!

5. Do you have any advice for selecting the appropriate footwear?

Footwear is a complicated one but ultimately the latest research out there shows that REGARDLESS of your foot anatomy, your best bet is to make sure the footwear that you purchase is COMFORTABLE on your feet. It must feel good to you. Do not buy footwear with the notion that “you need to break it in” – that is just not true!

6. Who is your favorite Disney princess?
I love Goofy!!! 

Princess Goofy?

7. Anything else you would like to add? 

The most important advice I can give runners and all athletes is to make sure their weekly workout routines are balanced and thorough! When in doubt, please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions!

Learn more about Dr. Karen Bonney at or on her latest blog post through Active Life DC,

Contact Dr. Bonney ( with any questions or to schedule a Functional Movement Screen or initial evaluation! Follow her on Twitter @BonneyKaren.

Wishing you many successful and pain free runs!

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