Running Injuries

running at sunrise

Running is a great way to burn calories, release endorphins, and improve your cardiovascular health. It can be a healthy activity to do with friends and loved ones, and many enjoy the thrill of competing in races of various lengths. While the number of benefits one can gain from running is vast, so is the number of injuries that may come along with it – especially when covering longer distances. Running injuries are the result of different factors, which include not stretching properly, insufficient footwear, or possible musculoskeletal problems. These injuries can potentially put a stop to running and cause further damage if not cared for properly. Below are some of the most common running injuries, and how you can treat and prevent them so you can get back on track.

1. Runner’s Knee
What is commonly referred to as “runner’s knee” is actually patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), and it is irritation of the cartilage beneath the kneecap. This irritation may be due to biomechanical factors such as over pronation (excessive rolling in of the foot), and weak hips, quadriceps, and glute muscles. If you are experiencing this pain, it is best to decrease the amount of running, or taking a break altogether if the pain persists. While on your hiatus, work on strengthening the surrounding musculature of the hip, glutes, and quadriceps. Look into alternate forms of cardio such as the elliptical or swimming until you are ready to hit the pavement again.

2. Plantar Fasciitis
This is the most common foot injury among runners, and it is chronic and quite painful. Plantar fasciitis occurs when there are small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes. This may be a result of over pronation, increasing your mileage too quickly, long periods of standing on hard floors without the proper footwear, as well as tight hip flexors, weak core muscles, and lower back pain. You may need to take some time off from running or decrease your running in order to speed up recovery. Treatment also includes frequent massage and stretching of the foot. Rolling a frozen water bottle under the foot is recommended. When you are ready to get back out and run again, be sure to have specialized shoes for plantar fasciitis or footwear with good arch support. Have a running specialist or podiatrist analyze your gait to be sure you get the right shoe for you, and a custom orthotic may help as well.

3. Shin Splints
Medial tibial stress syndrome, or “shin splints,” occurs when small tears in the muscle around your shin bone result in an achy pain up the front of your lower leg. This injury is common among new runners and is a sign that you are doing too much, too quickly, or you are wearing the wrong shoe. If you are experiencing this pain, back off of running by decreasing your mileage or taking a break altogether. Icing, shin splint sleeves and ibuprofen will help to minimize the pain. In the meantime, be sure you have the appropriate footwear with proper support and cushioning. When you start running again, start off easy and increase your mileage gradually.

4. Achilles Tendinitis
The Achilles tendon connects the two calf muscles to the back of the heel. When overstressed, the tendon tightens up and becomes irritated. This injury may be a result of a dramatic increase in training, and those with weak calf muscles are especially vulnerable. Note that this is not an injury to run through. Treatment of Achilles tendinitis includes icing the area five times a day, as well as strengthening the calf muscles by performing heel drops. Avoid wearing high heels while recovering.