The benefits of running far outweigh the risks, but injuries can happen. Typically when you are are ill-prepared or push your self too hard, as is the case for most sports injuries. You’ll be all be familiar with the aches, pains and niggles that crop up out on the road, track or trail – a tender foot, a tight hamstring, a whiny knee. These common running injuries, if left untreated and unaddressed, can materialise into something more serious.
Listen to your body
Most runners find it exceedingly hard to listen to their body’s natural feedback. And can be guilty of ignoring blatant warning signs. There are times when the ‘run it off’ approach works wonders. However, more often than not, running through pain does more harm than good. So proceed with caution!
Let’s take a closer look at the common running injuries you should be looking out for and ways to stay injury free!
Acute vs chronic injuries
Runners are particularly prone to chronic injuries due to the repetitive, high-impact nature of running. These materialise over time, as opposed to acute injuries which occur suddenly after a traumatic event.
Acute injuries tend to be tears, sprains and breaks, with the severity of the injury reflected immediately in the swelling or bruising of a particular area. You can’t ‘run off’ injuries like these. Damaged tissues will require rest to heal, however icing and compression clothing can expedite the process – flooding the tissues with nutrients essential for repair.
Common running injuries
Shin splints, also known as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), is often recognised as pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). The cause is often repeated trauma to the connective muscle tissue surrounding the tibia.
Possible cause: Increasing mileage too quickly, inappropriate support from footwear, tension build up in the foot.
The stresses of running can cause irritation where the kneecap (patella) rests on the thighbone. The resulting pain can be sharp and sudden, or dull and chronic. It may disappear while you are running, only to return again afterwards. While biomechanical issues may be to blame for runner’s knee, the cause can often be traced back to poorly conditioned quadriceps and tight hamstrings.
Possible cause: Ineffective muscle recruitment, requirement for greater cushioning from footwear.
Prevention:Taping, self-massage in legs and back, strength and conditioning of muscle groups.
Achilles tendinitis is usually a dull or sharp pain anywhere along the back of the tendon, commonly close to the heel. Other signs you may have Achilles tendinitis include limited ankle flexibility, redness or heat over the painful area, a nodule (a lumpy build-up of scar tissue) that can be felt on the tendon, or a cracking sound (scar tissue rubbing against the tendon) when the ankle moves.
Possible cause: Ineffective range of motion at the ankle, inappropriate support from footwear, tension build up in calves and/or feet, increasing mileage too quickly.
Prevention:Taping, self-massage in legs and feet – particularly the calves, strength and conditioning to improve muscle recruitment and increase range of motion.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament that supports your arch. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament which harden over time. These can lead to pain, swelling and restricted flexibility of the foot.
Possible cause: Ineffective range of motion at the ankle, inappropriate support from footwear, tension build up in feet and calves, overpronation.
Prevention: Self-massage in legs and feet – particularly the calves and arch, compression.
IT band syndrome
Iliotibial band syndrome (also known as ITBS or IT band syndrome) is one of the most common overuse injuries among runners. It occurs when the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed. The IT band attaches to the knee and helps stabilise and move the joint.
Possible cause: Inappropriate support from footwear, tension build up in quads and calves, overpronation allowed in regular footwear
Prevention: Self-massage in legs – target the quads, glutes and hamstrings. It is crucial to avoid foam rolling directly on the IT band as this will already be sensitive and inflamed. There are far more benefits from foam rolling the tight muscles around the insertion points.
Top tips for staying injury free
The repetitive nature of running and the toll it takes on our feet, really underlines the importance of wearing the right running shoes. Our unique +runlab video analysis and shoe fitting service takes all of your needs into account and allows you to select shoes from our range which shoe will work best for you.
We aren’t fixing anything here, just merely ensuring that the footwear you wear is the footwear that is going to minimise the likelihood of injury and maximise your enjoyment!
Self-massage is the single best way to prepare for a run and to recover afterwards. It also keeps those niggles as exactly that, niggles, without escalating to a full injury. Using products such as a foam roller or a massage ball to knead out any muscle tension will prevent the build-up of scarring.
It’s also a fantastic way to warm up and increase the blood flow to the muscles you’re about to punish. Recovery times will be shorter and the range of motion at joints will be greater. I’m sure we’d all love to have regular sports massages, but self-massage is far more cost effective and can be done from the comfort of your own home.
Compression products work by increasing the blood flow to the compressed area. This, in turn, improves the oxygen and nutrient flow to the working muscles. Research has shown that it can reduce fatigue in the muscles and also aids recovery. Training, resting and sleeping in compression clothing is a great way to speed up the healing of any niggles and keep common running injuries at bay. Compression clothing also keeps the muscles warm so on those colder days you won’t feel any sudden ‘twangs’ when muscles are suddenly thrust into action.
Saving the best till last! Training is probably the easiest aspect for us to control, yet it’s still to blame for the majority of injuries. Training through injuries, ignoring blatant warning signs and putting a brave face on are all recipes for disaster. Yet so many of us are too stubborn to sit even one session out. There’s far more to be gained from having the patience to recover and rebuild; than to train through injuries and soldier on. The key is discipline!
Gradual progression in training is far better than severely overloading your body and getting injured. An Olympic marathon runner once said to me that “you need 6-8 months of uninterrupted training before reaping the rewards and reaching your potential.” The type of training you do can also assist in preventing injuries. I’m a big advocate of yoga for runners, I believe that the strength and flexibility yoga gives you ensures that there are no neglected muscles.
Strength and conditioning can come in other forms as well. Plyometric workouts using a resistance band and weight based exercises can help you become a stronger, well-conditioned runner – toughening up major muscle groups.
And there you have it. Be good to yourself. Listen to your body!
View a full range of Injury Prevention & Recovery accessories online. If you have any questions or need any further advice, pop into your nearest Run4It shop and speak to one of the team. We’ve all been injured at some stage, so can share some more perils of wisdom!