Annoyingly, injury is one of the harsh realities of running. You’ll 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. If left untreated and unaddressed, these murmurs can materialise into something more serious.
Most runners find it exceedingly hard to listen to their body’s natural feedback and are 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 – as injured runners who are stuck on the sidelines are terribly grumpy beings!
Let me talk you through some common running injuries to watch out for and share some words of wisdom on how to stay injury free!
Top Tip: Consistent, uninterrupted training is the best way to improve your running and keep injuries at bay.
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 that occur suddenly after a traumatic event.
Acute injuries tend to be tears, sprains and breaks. With the severity of the injury reflected immediately in 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 can expedite the process – flooding the tissues with nutrients essential for repair.
Common Running Injuries
1) Shin Splints
Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), is often recognised as pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). Shin splints are usually caused by repeated trauma to the connective muscle tissue surrounding the tibia.
Possible cause: increasing mileage too quickly, inappropriate support from footwear, tension build up in foot
Prevention: taping, compression, icing, self-massage in feet
2) Runner’s Knee
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, and it may disappear while you’re running, only to return again afterward. 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
3) Achilles Tendinitis (a personal nemesis of mine!)
Achilles tendinitis is usually a dull or sharp pain anywhere along the back of the tendon, commonly close to the heel. Other signs you might 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 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
4) Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament that supports your arch. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament and hardens over time. These can lead to pain and swelling and also cause a restriction in the flexibility of the foot.
Possible cause: ineffective range of motion at ankle, inappropriate support from footwear, tension build up in feet and calves, excessive amount of pronation
Prevention: self-massage in legs and feet – particularly the calves and arch, compression
5) IT Band Syndrome
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) 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, excessive amount of pronation 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 stating injury-free
The repetitive nature of running and the toll it takes on our feet, really underlines the importance of wearing the right footwear. 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 will work best for you.
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, which 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 is a great way to speed up the healing of any niggles. 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 and 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 (myself included) 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, and believe that the strength and flexibility yoga gives you, ensures that there are no neglected muscles.
Strength and conditioning can come in other formats 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!
You can check out our full range of Injury Prevention & Recovery products 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!