for those who love the outdoors

8 October, 2021


Should I be running with a niggle or injury?

When it comes to niggles and injuries it can be hard to judge whether to continue to run or stop. Lilly Adkins from Move Better Run Better talks us through the 3/10 rule.

The 3/10 Rule Explained

When it comes to niggles and injuries it can be hard to judge whether to continue to run or stop. Of course, being a keen runner, you don’t want to stop training especially if you have races planned, but at the same time you don’t want to cause further harm to yourself and possibly get injured. How do you get that balance right?

This is when ‘The 3/10 Rule’ comes in

Below is a simple scale that I have put together, based on my own experience with niggles and injuries (some being serious: 15 pins and 2 plates in my ankle and hip surgery, and some not so serious) and from the feedback of many runners that I have coached.

What is ‘the 3/10 Rule’?

Using the scale below from 1-10, pick the number which describes most accurately how your niggle or injury is feeling:

1. Something is ‘there’, but it is so slight you can hardly feel it

2. You know its ‘there’, but it’s in the background

3. Starting to feel it now- you notice it whilst running but it isn’t causing you any pain as such

4. Ouch! This is beginning to feel painful

5. Feeling vulnerable and really painful/sore/uncomfortable now

6. Start to change the way that you run to try and feel more comfortable

7. Begin to physically limp whilst running

8. Begin to physically limp whilst walking

9. Struggle to weight bear and in a lot of pain- May need to go to hospital!

10. Unable to weight bear and in excruciating pain- Definitely need to go to the hospital!

< 3/10 – GOOD to go

If your rating for the niggle or injury is 3/10 or lower, you can continue to run. I would put 1-3 in the ‘niggle’ category which, for runners it can be common to have. Some can be completely random, they may appear and then disappear within in that same run. The niggles you need to pay attention to are the ones that progressively get worse within each run. It may have started as a 1/10 but increases to 3/10.

>4/10 – NOT good to go

If you have reached a 4/10 or more this is when you can do more damage than good by continuing, and possibly turn a niggle into an injury. This is when I would recommend that you stop running. If it is only a 4 you may just need a few days rest but, when returning start with just a short and sweet one NOT an ‘easy 5 or 10k’. I ALWAYS recommend using run/walk when returning back to running after an injury no matter what level you are at. At first, this could be simply 5 mins total of 1 minute run/1 minute walk, then you can gradually increase. So many runners jump the gun in this crucial phase and end up setting themselves back weeks and sometimes months! As frustrating as it can be, trust that you may well be saving yourself a lot of time and heart-ache in the long run by doing it in this way. One other thing to add is that if you do reach a 4/10 whilst on a run, stop immediately.

If you are at 4/10 and above, the amount of rest/rehab you may need will completely depend on the severity of the pain and the injury itself. I would recommend that you seek help, whether it be a physiotherapist or sports massage therapist to help you return back to running in the in the right way, ideally someone who specialises in running.


That’s it… the 3/10 Rule! A simple, common-sense approach to use when you are questioning whether or not you should be running with a niggle or injury.

MBR Headshot1

This article was written by Lilly Adkins – Strength and conditioning coach of Move Better Run Better. For more hints on injury prevention, please follow Move Better Run Better Facebook page

Starting on October 11th, Lilly is also hosting a free 5-day Start To Reduce The Risk Of Injuries Challenge. For more information and to secure a place, you can register here

Outside & Active

Contributor Images 47

Outside & Active is the home for those who love the outdoors. Our mission is to inspire, inform and educate people about being active outdoors in a fun, safe and sustainable way. We provide inspiration, kit, tech and advice on adventure, camping, climbing, cycling, hiking, running water and winter.

More articles from Outside & Active

Related Articles

Most recent articles by Outside & Active

Most recent articles in RUNNING