Running is one of the best things we can do for our health. From weight loss and cancer prevention to a boost in mood and self-esteem, there are just so many benefits. It can be hard to find motivation sometimes, but no one ever regrets a run. It has the power to change even the most negative and down in the dumps mindset and make us feel fit, so strong and confident. And while the list of its health pros is long, it doesn’t mean that there are some common injuries among runners.
People often hear about the dreaded runner’s knee and shin splints. Then there some who experience aches and pains and soreness when running often. And then there are more serious running injuries like sprains, brakes and other issues that keep runner’s sidelined.
While there is a risk of injury depending if a person is new to running or whether they run trails where slips and falls can happen, running is a non-contact sport. This means it is a whole lot safer than getting pummeled while playing football.
Many of the injuries caused by running are because of overuse. Luckily, there are prevention tools and strategies runners can take so that they remain in good health.
Injuries Caused By Overuse
Running can really become addicting. And while this is a healthy addiction, running too much too soon or too many miles consecutively can cause strain on the body. This then results in overuse injuries.
Running is bad for your knees is also something many (usually non-runners) say about the activity. This statement is nothing more than a myth. In fact, there are studies that found running is actually good for the joints. This is, of course, if the runner is at risk of knee issues such as those who have “bad knees” in these genes.
With that said, one of the most common (about 40 percent of) running injuries are related to the knee. This includes runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). Runner’s knee put simply is pain or inflammation in the front of the knee around the patella, better known as the kneecap. It is caused by overuse from vigorous training including increasing the number of days of exercise or extending mileage. As a result, the nerves sense pain in the tendons and bone around the kneecap.
Since changes in footwear like wearing old sneakers and improper training on sports equipment are also culprits, be proactive and change running shoes when necessary and focus on proper form.
Many experience knee pain when running downhill so take a break and then resume running by running on a treadmill at an incline to mimic going uphill which is easier on the knees. Also, focus on shortening stride length to take the load of the knee joints.
Those who are new to running often experience shooting an throbbing pain at their lower legs that is anywhere between the ankle and knee. This is called medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS) or “shin splints.”
Shin splints are very painful and the only way to treat it is to take time off from running. The good news is that it the pain is probably too intense to even attempt a run. Take off a day or two, but some need at least a week.
This running injury is caused by the constant stress and pounding from hitting the pavement of the muscles, joints, and bones of the lower legs.
Running on concrete, or on uneven terrain, improper form, lack of flexibility, muscle weakness of and worn out shoes are all culprits.
Those new to running should get fitted for proper shoes and start running slowly and increase pace and mileage over time.
Achilles tendonitis makes up for 11 percent of running injuries. This tendon connects the calf muscles to the back of the ankle. This tendon is crucial in walking and running since it helps to raise the heel off the ground.
This running injury occurs when there is too much stress on it. As a result, it tightens and inflammation occurs. When left untreated, microscopic tears form and at worst case the tendon can rupture.
The main reason for Achilles tendonitis is overuse. Do not take a suck it up approach when it comes to ankle pain. It only makes the injury worse and runners can be away from the sport for about six months. Instead, take a break for running and rest. Apple ice and do calf strengthening exercises. Resume running only when pain is gone.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
This running injury is more common in more seasoned runners who start to increase their mileage. Those who do so too fast or who begin to run long runs back to back often suffer from iliotibial band syndrome. The IT band runs from the hip along the outside of the thigh to the knee. The IT rubs against the femur which can cause irritation. This then is that sore feeling in the hip during a long run or after.
IT syndrome is slightly painful but more of a tenderness when walking, doing downstairs or running downhill. Once that soreness is there, take back mileage after resting for a day or two. The best thing to do is foam roll after a run. When a flat up is present, foam roll before and after a run.
Since ITBS occurs among hill runners, skip the hill workout and shorten strides to for better form.
It sounds obvious, but really the best way to prevent a running injury caused by overuse is to cut back the mileage and/or have a rest day or two. It might even also mean reducing the intensity of runs such as not going for that tempo run and instead of enjoying a slow jog when symptoms flare.
Resting or backing off high mileage runs can reduce the risk of further injuring whatever the potential problem is.
Make sure to end a run by stretching and foam roll regularly. These two things make a world of difference when preventing an injury. Try to stretch train in between days dedicated to running to build up overall fitness. This also reduces the risk of injury.
Plantar Fasciitis is arguably the worst running injuries to suffer from. Not only is it common, but it is also painful and keeps runners sidelined for quite some time.
The plantar fascia is the thick ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot. It provides that arch support and is crucial in walking. It also is the brunt of lots of stress and everyday tear. Too much pressure or stress causes inflammation, thus pain. And this is some serious pain at the bottom of the heel. Stiffness also occurs from plantar fasciitis, with flair ups happening early in the morning and when getting up after standing for some time.
Long-distance runners are more likely to suffer from this running injury, and women more than men. Those with high arches or flat feet are also at risk. Make sure to properly get fitted for running shoes and wear compression socks to prevent plantar fasciitis.
Those who are suffering from it need to rest. Some find they still can run, but those who are suffering badly from this running injury need up to six months to heal. That’s why it’s best to rest and recovery instead of making it worse.
Stress fractures are the worst or the worst injuries for runners. That’s because it keeps them off their feet and away from the activity for a longer time. A stress fracture occurs as a result of continuous strain on the bone. Professional runners often suffer from stress fractures because of their demanding training programs. Among the most common stress fractures are the shin, feet, and heels.
The recovery time varies based on the location of the fracture. The best prevention strategies include slowly increasing mileage, having rest days, and doing strength training workouts to strengthen other muscles.
- The Most Common Injuries of Track and Field, Access Physical Therapy Wellness.
- Stay Healthy By Avoiding These Big Body Breakdowns, Christine Aschwanden, Feb. 3, 2011 Runner’s World.
- Running is Bad for Your Knees and Other Top Running Myths, Jason R. Karp, Ph.D., Active.
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, Ortho Info.
- Shin Splints, Healthline.
- Plantar Fasciitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis, Healthline.
- Achilles Tendon Disorders, Foot Health Facts