10 Most Common Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Know your friends well, but know your injuries better: read on to find out more about the most common running injuries -- and effective ways to prevent them from happening to you!

Image Credit: http://www.mamashealth.com/run/images/runinjury.jpg

If you never had to endure running with a nagging, pesky pain on any part of your legs, we beg you to share your training secrets with us. Do you drink unicorn blood before training, are you secretly clad in an Iron Man suit -- what is it?  Injuries are so common among runners that almost 8 out of 10 runners that you meet on your next race would have been injured that year. But, knowing that “pushing the limit” is a runner’s last name, this fact comes as no surprise. So, to help us gain an injury-free running experience, here’s a list of the most common injuries and the different ways to prevent them.

Runner’s Knee

The one thing that many runners have in common, second only to our love for running. It’s a sharp pain around the kneecap that intensifies when running downhill, uphill or up the stairs. Poor running form, weak muscles around the knee, and imbalance due to hip problems can put additional stress on the knee resulting in this ailment. Also, runners who increase their mileage or intensity too abruptly usually become victims as well.

How to Prevent It

Physiotherapists suggest going easy during training sessions. Increase the mileage, speed and duration gradually to allow the body to get into the new rhythm. Invest in a good footwear. We understand the urge to hoard on the latest trendy trainers, but these cute pairs most probably won’t help our performance much outside of Instagram. Visit a specialist running store that is equipped with proper tools and knowledge to help you find a pair that supports your running gait.  And remember those running shoes that made you feel like a million bucks that you wear only on special occasion? Well, time to bring them out and get what they’re worth for. The shock absorbing cushion will degrade over time even when they are not in use. Though the shoes still look brand new, it’s best to replace the trainers when you can’t feel the spring anymore, or after a total distance covered of 300-500 miles.

Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles Tendinitis causes pain at the back of the foot near the heel. It happens due to swelling of the tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. The tendon is highly durable, but it’s also often overused. Try this:  recall a day when we don’t use our heels. Safe to say, we will all have a hard time answering that. Much like the runner’s knee, the common culprit of this ailment is a sudden increase in intensity and frequency of running. Achilles Tendinitis can also be caused by tight calf muscles and poor footwear.

How to Prevent It

While an impromptu run on hills sounds like a lot of fun, you may want to make sure that you don’t run too hard, too fast. Running off-road or on hills puts more pressure on the heels than running on even ground. Also, don’t skip on stretching before and after a workout. A good pair of shoes will help you go a long way too. Icing the tendon for 15-20 minutes two or three times a day could get you on the recovery path faster as well.

IT Band Pain

The bane for all runners seasoned and beginner. IT band pain is triggered by inflammation or tightness of the iliotibial band, also known as the ligament that runs down the thigh from the hip to the shin. When the IT band decides to throw a fit, the resulting pain can be so severe that runners will have to rest for weeks or even longer. Any activities that cause the leg to turn inward repeatedly can lead to IT band pain. Think along the lines of running on hard or hilly surface, wearing worn-out shoes, or simply running too much (the struggle, right?).

How to Prevent It

Chill out a bit on increasing the mileage or even take a day off after a hard workout. Training marathoners are probably ready to go after us with a pitchfork and a torch for this suggestion, but trust us on this, because a stinging pain on the upper thigh makes for a nasty running buddy. It’s also best to run on a soft, flat ground to reduce stress on the muscles and don’t forget to show some love to the muscles by foam rolling to ease them out.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common complaints among runners. It causes a stabbing pain and stiffness on the bottom of the heel caused by tearing or inflammation in the plantar fascia, a fancy name for the ligament that connects the heels to the front of your foot. It’s triggered by increased pressure on the ligament due to weight gain or prolonged activity while being on the feet. Long-distance runners aren’t gonna love hearing about Plantar Fasciitis.

How to Prevent It

“Wake up and stretch” should be your life motto from now onwards. It’s recommended to stretch the heels first thing in the morning or before standing up after prolonged sitting. Adding an extra cushion into the shoes may be a good idea too to soothe the sole. Alternatively, you can wear night splints that would keep your foot in a flexed position thus reducing morning pain and stiffness.

Shin Splint

The razor-like pain along your shin when you’re running that makes every step you take feels like walking on a shattered glass. Okay, we may exaggerate a bit, but we aren’t overstating when we say that shin splint can be a sign of injury to the bone or the surrounding tissue. The pain is usually felt during or after running. Shin splints induce swelling on the leg.

How to Prevent It

Shin splint is often triggered by a sudden change in the intensity of exercise. So, don’t go out for a half marathon run on a whim if you don’t want to end up in the physiotherapist’s office. Increase the duration and number of exercises gradually. Avoid running on hills and make sure that you lace on comfy footwear before you go on a run.

Side Stitch

Few things can get in runner’s way, heat or haze, but we would run all the same. With side stitches, though...that’s a different story. The sharp, nagging pain near the bottom of the rib cage is almost impossible to bear. Side stitches are caused by the spasm of diaphragm muscles under stress as runners pick up their distance or pace (interval running, anyone?).

How to Prevent It

To spare you from the annoying agony, you can do some exercises to strengthen your core, including planks or donkey kicks to step up its resilience against fatigue. Also, you may want to skip on the fried hor fun and the bubble tea before you run. High fat and sugary food take longer to digest and likely causes stitches. Don’t forget to breathe too. Inhaling and exhaling deeply can help to prevent side stitches.

Hamstring Injury

Hamstring injuries can be caused by a strain or tear of one or multiple muscles at the back of the thigh. In the most severe cases, the tendon can detach completely from the bone and carry away with it a piece of bone (note: don’t imagine that). A mild hamstring strain can heal quickly, but a tear in the muscle may take months to recover.

How to Prevent It

Prevention is done best by warming up before runs to reduce the tightness of the muscles. You can improve the flexibility of the hamstring by doing stretching and getting a deep tissue massage. Compression shorts are also great at providing support for the hamstring and increasing warmth to the area.

Stress Fracture

“Ehm, hello, I’m a runner, not a boxer, I don’t think we need to talk about fractures.” Well, you’re right and wrong at the same time. Although stress fractures usually happen as a result of a fall or high-impact trauma, runners can develop stress fracture due to the cumulative strain on the bone. The fracture is commonly found on the shin, feet, and heel.

How to Prevent It

The ten percent rule should be your BFF. Increase your mileage gradually, about ten percent every week, and take some down-time every 3-4 weeks. Skip the treadmill in the gym and pick up the barbell once in a while. Weight lifting could help to improve bone density and preventing stress fractures (bonus: impressive biceps). Nutrition is also key to maintaining bone health and density.

Ankle Sprain

Nope, it’s not just a sprain. The throbbing pain that you feel when your ankle rolls inward or outward, thanks to uneven asphalts or tree branches on the track, needs just as much attention as any other injury you’ve seen here. If you have had a sprain in the past, you’re more likely to get another in the future. Repeated sprains can cause damage to the cartilage inside the ankle joint.

How to Prevent It

Stand on one foot, for real! Balancing exercises will help you to improve your balance (duh!) and prevent an ankle sprain. Continuously hopping and standing on one foot are easy and effective exercises that can be done while you’re brushing your teeth or waiting for your cab (we’re all about efficiency, right?).  To strengthen the muscles around the ankle, you can also wrap a towel around your ankle and move your foot up and down.  The towel will give your ankle resistance as you move, thus helping to build strength.

Patellar Tendon Pain

Patellar Tendon pain can be felt around the bottom of the knee cap and the top of the shinbone. Unlike runner’s knee, though, Patellar Tendon does not hurt on top or the side of the kneecap. Although it’s more famously known as jumper’s knee, this condition is also found among many long-distance runners. The common culprit? You guessed it right: overtraining that results in tears of the muscle.

How to Prevent It

Leg strengthening exercises can do wonders to supercharge the muscles and make them stronger. Whenever you feel pain around the knee, spend some time doing R.I.C.E. to help you recover. Doctors could also help to administer some therapies that will calm and strengthen the muscles.

 “Injuries are so common among runners that almost 8 out of 10 runners that you’ll meet on your next race have been injured that year.”


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LIV3LY Editor
LIV3LY Editor

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