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Cross Training For Runners

Beginner’s Guide to First Aid For Runners

5 Mins read

What would you do if you sprain your ankle while running?

How would you handle a gushing wound after a fall?

How to keep yourself safe when running in the heat?

If you have no idea what to do in these situations, then today you’re in the right place.

Even though pounding the pavement (or the trails) isn’t a contact sport,

often trouble is just one foot strike away.

Being exposed to the elements increases your risk of injury or accident, whether due to a pre-existing condition, lack of physical fitness, or simply not paying attention to the road.

For these reasons, if you exercise outdoor a lot, know some first-aid. That’s how you’ll be able to address your own injuries before you get home and/or reach out for help.

Whether it’s a nasty fall, sprain, blister, or something more dangerous, here’s your guide on how to deal with common running nightmares on the road.

Note—Getting a good base in first aid is not something you can learn in a blog post, as it requires long hours of training and practical experience, but the guidelines shared below should you get started on the right foot.

Beginner’s Guide to First Aid For Runners

A properly stocked first aid kit is key for treating minor injuries both on the go and at home.

You can buy a whole set or throw together your own kit by getting all the items at a well-stocked drug store.

Ask the pharmacist for assistance.

A runner’s first aid kit should include the following:

  • Adhesive bandages in different sizes
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Allergy medicine
  • Aspirin
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Bug spray
  • Disposable razor
  • Elastic bandages
  • Latex-free gloves
  • Scissors and tweezers— for splinter or stinger removal
  • Fold-up plastic water bottle
  • Meds, especially if you have any pre-existing issues

Of course, you may not have all these supplies at your fingertips, but it always helps to be prepared.

Now let’s get to the practical stuff.


Sprains are a common outdoor injury that can cause swelling, pain, and bruising.

They happen when you lose your footing while cruising along some uneven terrain or tackling a rocky edge.

That’s why ankle sprains are pretty common among trail runners.

Your Next Step

Depending on how serious you sprained your ankle, you may able to hobble home.

Whatever the case, make sure you listen to your body and stop moving altogether if you have to.

If weight-bearing is out of the question, call a taxi.

Also, keep a stretchy bandage to stabilize any sprains.

As a rule, rest, apply ice therapy and elevate the injured joint.

This simple self-care procedure can help limit swelling, fluids build-up, and bleeding in soft tissue injuries.

If symptoms don’t improve within two to three days, seek medical help for possible X-rays and assessment for fracture.


Avoiding sprains when running ain’t easy, especially on the trails.

But you can always avoid running on technical terrains, improve your form, strengthen the muscles surrounding your ankle joint, and pay attention to your footing.

For more, check this post.

Falling & Bleeding During a Run

Falls resulting in serious cuts and wounds are common among runners, and if you take a tumble, knowing what to do next can help minimize long term damage.

A simple fall can lead to an open wound that can halt your training for the day.

And in some cases, an especially bad fall could result in a severe bleed.

Never ignore open wounds, no matter how badass they make you look like

Your Next Step

When you take a terrible fall while running, focus on controlling the bleeding first, then cleaning and protecting the injured limb.

Don’t have any first-aid tools at hand?

Use your sweatbands and extra-base layers, especially if the wound is gushing.

Take them off and press firmly over the injury until the bleeding ceases.

Putting pressure on an injury constricts the blood vessels, which limits circulation to the area, therefore, the less blood flow, the less bleeding.

Once you get home, clean the area with warm, soapy water and hydrogen peroxide before bandaging it to prevent infection.

To keep the area moist, use plain petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment.

Additional resource – Trail Running First Aid Kit 


When running outdoor, pay attention to your surroundings and keep an eye out for protruding roots, loose stones, sharp rocks, and anything else that could trip you over.

What’s more?

Wear running shoes offering support for your running terrain.

First aid For Runners

Blisters On A Run

Blisters are common, posing no serious threat, but they can mess up with your workout if you don’t deal with them ASAP.

This annoying condition occurs when the skin is continuously rubbed against another surface, whether it’s the skin itself, clothing, or the inside of your running shoes.

Your Next Step

I know.

It’s the most tempting thing in the universe to burst a blister, but it’s best to leave it alone.

The skin acts as a fantastic barrier to infection, but popping a blister may make the injury worse, increasing your risk for infection.

And you don’t want that.

Instead, cover the blister with plaster and make sure there are no wrinkles in the sock that may cause rubbing.

In case of a blister outbreak, shield it with a clean, non-adhesive, and dry dressing that stretches beyond the edges of the blister.


Run in suitable shoes that fit well with no pressure points, and have been well broken in, especially when running long and/or hard.

Go for socks that offer good support, avoiding cotton materials as it retains moisture.

Also, use foot powder spray to keep your feet dry and comfortable.

Heat-induced Issues

Heat-related illnesses are dangerous and can be a question of life or death.

These occur when your body retains too much heat, resulting in an abnormal increase in body temperature.

Heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heatstroke can happen to any runner who trains in the summer heat for too long.

The symptoms

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Flushed skin
  • Dizziness
  • Dry throat
  • Dehydration
  • Confusion

Your Next Step

If you’re experiencing a couple of more of these symptoms, slow down or stop training altogether.

Find a shady area, lie down with your legs raised, and drink some fluids, especially an electrolyte solution.

Ideally, you should also call someone to come and be with you and get medical attention.

If possible, apply cold packs to your groin, armpit, behind the knees, and the back of your neck to remove the heat and bring your core temperature down.

Seek medical attention if symptoms do not improve, especially if vomiting develops.

Your doctor may use cool intravenous fluids, which help lower the temperature in the bloodstream.


Drink plenty of water, choose “shady” running routes,  and avoid running in the heat, especially during the summer between the times of 10 am to 4 pm.


As previously stated, today’s post is by no means the full guide to first aid skills, but I believe these simple guidelines covers some of the most common issues that runners will face out there.

That said, I’ll strongly advise you to learn more about the subject, and take a course (if you have the time to do so).

Knowing more about the subject not only comes in handy when you run into trouble, but you could also use the knowledge to help someone else.

And you can’t put a price tag on that.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep Running Strong.

David D.

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