Top 5 Most Common Running Injuries

Jason Fitzgerald
by Jason Fitzgerald
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Top 5 Most Common Running Injuries

Injuries are the nemesis of every runner. Nobody wants to be sidelined for several days or have to face months of recovery and rehabilitation.

When caught and treated early, most injuries will be a mere nuisance rather than a full-blown event.  Learning to recognize these five common running injuries when they first appear may save you from what every runner loathes: not running!

SHIN SPLINTS

Where it hurts: Pain from shin splints can be felt in both the front, outer (anterior) portion of your shin or on the medial portion on the inner side of your leg. Medial shin splints are far more common.

Pain can progress from a mild ache felt only when running to continuous pain that is noticeable even at rest. A generalized ache is usually felt in one leg, often your more dominant one.

Why it happens: Shin splints are commonly the result of trying to do too much, too soon, before your body is prepared to handle the new stress. A sudden increase in mileage or speed work may be to blame. The problem can be compounded by overpronation, excessively worn shoes or running on cambered (slightly arched) roads.

Rest, along with compression, reduced mileage and running on softer surfaces can help you get back on track.

ACHILLES TENDINOPATHY

Where it hurts: Achilles tendinopathy is felt specifically in your Achilles tendon, not the heel or calf muscles. This pain occurs as a result of weakness or dysfunction in the tendon rather than inflammation. Though you may begin your run pain-free, soreness in the form of a sharp, “poking” sensation will often occur within 5–10 minutes.

Why it happens: AT can occur as a result excessive hill work, poor form, frequently wearing high heels or too much minimalist footwear. Weak glutes, severe pronation, a leg-length discrepancy and muscle asymmetries can also contribute to Achilles pain.

This can be a challenging area to heal due to minimal blood flow in the tendon, so it’s best to tackle this in the earliest stages. Rest, icing (in the acute stages), reduced hill work and eccentric heel drops should all be part of your recovery strategy.


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PLANTAR FASCIITIS

Where it hurts: Pain from plantar fasciitis can be felt anywhere along the bottom of your foot, but typically it occurs close to your heel. A sharp or burning pain is usually most noticeable when you get out of bed in the morning.

Why it happens: The plantar fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot and supports your arch. If this tissue isn’t strong enough to support the movement of your foot while running, the tissue will become chronically irritated.

Common causes of plantar fasciitis include: significant overpronation, supination or extremely tight calves. Weak feet, hips and glutes can also contribute. Rest, icing (in the acute stages), calf rolling and stretching, and foot-strengthening exercises are your most effective treatment options.

ILIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDROME

Where it hurts: The iliotibial band is a thick piece of connective tissue that runs parallel to your femur from the outside of your hip to your knee. Pain is characteristically felt at the end of the IT band where it attaches on the outside of the knee.

Why it happens: Most mistakenly believe that ITBS occurs because of a tight IT band — but the IT band is supposed to be tight to do its job! The source of the problem is almost always a weak butt. Weak glutes cause the pelvis to shift excessively, causing your femur to move abnormally and the IT band to pull away from your knee.

ITBS can be challenging to treat, but glute- and hip-strengthening exercises can be immensely helpful in both the prevention and treatment processes.

PATELLOFEMORAL PAIN SYNDROME (PFPS, OR RUNNER’S KNEE)

Where it hurts: Unlike ITBS, pain from runner’s knee is felt on the front of your knee, under the bottom edge of your kneecap. It may start as a mild ache that is only felt while running, but can progress to the point that it is felt even at rest.

Why it happens: Patellofemoral pain syndrome is the most common injury experienced by runners, accounting for nearly 20% of all injuries. Current research suggests that it comes from chronic stimulation on the pain nerves in that region. This can be the result of a variety of issues that are biomechanical and lead to tissue degradation or simply a result of muscular weakness, imbalance or overuse. Like many other running injuries, hip weakness is often to blame. Strength work combined with reduced running volume will help get you back on track.

Learning to prevent injuries first, then recognize and treat them will allow you to run healthy and pain-free!

About the Author

Jason Fitzgerald
Jason Fitzgerald

Jason is the founder of Strength Running, a USA Track & Field certified running coach and 2017’s Men’s Running’s Influencer of the Year. Learn more about how he can help you run faster.

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