There is nothing like being cooped up in a stuffy gym all winter, forced to run on the treadmill day after day, only an arms length away from your pokey neighbor. Just when you think you can’t haul yourself back through those gym doors even one more time this season, Mother Nature swoops in with a breath of fresh air, literally! The freedom and liberation that comes with that first outdoor jog of the season almost feels too good to be true. Sun on your face, breeze in your hair, life is good… except for the shin splints that come with cruising over the cracked pavement and loose gravel covering your favorite neighborhood jogging trail. Knee pain and shin splints are those few minor casualties that come along with running in the great outdoors. Don’t let joint pain stop you in your tracks.

Try these tips and tricks for protecting your knees and ankles:

Start with your shoes. Wearing supportive footwear is the first step to avoiding and managing joint pain. Be sure to choose running shoes that support all sides of your feet, especially your arches and ankles. There are specialty stores all over the country that will personally fit you for running shoes, making sure you are wearing the correct amount of support depending on the “type” of runner you are.

Avoid excess shock to your joints. The harder the surface is that you’re running on, the more shock goes straight to your joints with every stride. Instead of jogging on the pavement, try running in the grass right beside your favorite trail. Running on the natural ground reduces impact shock and is much easier on your joints. Just be mindful of the terrain and be careful not to misstep and roll an ankle.

Stretch and hydrate. These are two of the most important aspects of any exercise routine. No matter the season, always make sure to drink plenty of water. We use water to sweat, lubricate joints and organs, and transport nutrients to muscles, ligaments, tendons and all body systems. Drinking water will also help to avoid cramping while exercising. Take five minutes to stretch your legs before starting your run. Stretch your quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings to avoid injury.

Ice, Ice Baby. The golden rule for any sport, always ice sore joints after a good workout. Put a bag of ice on your knees and ankles for 20 minutes after strenuous exercise to reduce inflammation in your joints. Even if you don’t currently have shin splints or knee pain, it’s still important to reduce inflammation to keep your joints healthy for years to come.