4 Most Common Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

by Josh Billings, PT, MPT, regional director, MedStar National Rehabilitation Network
July 23, 2018

Research shows that running is a great way to reduce stress, stay in shape, and lose weight. But, as many both new and experienced runners know, it can also come with its fair share of running injuries.

What are the most common running injuries?

Forty-two percent of all running-related injuries affect the knee. The most common running ailments are:

  • Patellofemoral pain: pain around the kneecap
  • IT band issues: pain around the outside of the knee
  • Plantar fasciitis: pain in the arch or heel of the foot
  • Shin problems: usually bone pain, typically the tibia

What makes runners so prone to these injuries?

Most running-related injuries are due to overuse, meaning they stem from overtraining and improper techniques.

A lot of these injuries also come from muscular imbalances. Weak hip muscles and tight ankles, for example, are issues that are common within the general population. Training errors combined with these imbalances tend to make runners more prone to injury.

Despite the fact that there are a number of potential injuries related to running, these injuries are typically quick fixes. That’s GREAT news for runners!

What are some signs of running injuries?

Overuse injuries tend to come on gradually, unlike instantaneous issues. Because of this gradual development, our bodies typically send us a few warning signs.

If the problem is tendon pain, runners will usually experience stiffness and soreness, specifically at the beginning of their workout. As they continue exercising, this pain tends to dissipate.

With a bone-stress injury, runners may experience tenderness directly on or over a bone. Unlike tendon pain, this pain tends to get worse as you run. Worsening pain is a definite red flag, and might be a sign that an X-ray or MRI is in order to determine the root cause of the pain.

Treating different types of running pain

Whether you’ve been running for years or just started last week, figuring out the seriousness of an injury can be tough. The more you run, the more familiar you will become with your own body and the types of pain you may experience.

Some injuries are self-treatable. For example, if you’re experiencing tightness, you can stretch more or try foam-rolling.

Other injuries may require some—dare I say it— time off. One common problem that runners face is that they don’t typically like to stop running, and that’s okay. While you may need to scale back on your training, recovery can still be active. Runners can try slowing down, shortening their runs, or even participating in some other type of cardio exercise, like biking or swimming. If no improvement is made after recovery or rest, it might be time to see a medical professional.

The key to finding the right physician is seeking out someone who knows and understands runners and running fundamentals. These specialists are more likely to suggest modifications to training, rather than those two, dreaded words: “stop running.”

How can I reduce my risk of a running injury?

One of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of running-related injury is to cross-train. This concept might be foreign, as many runners tend to be focus solely on running when it comes to their exercise. However, biking, swimming, running on an anti-gravity treadmill, and strength and flexibility training are all key aspects of a well-rounded running program. While increasing speed and mileage are important, being inclusive with your workouts will keep you balanced, and reduce your risk of developing an overuse injury.

Choosing the right pair of running shoes can also be crucial to your training and injury prevention. Running specialty stores have specialists who will analyze your gait and make recommendations on the right shoe category for you.

One more key element of a well-rounded routine is implementing a solid warmup, such as a slow jog or dynamic stretching before you run. Getting your body acclimated to the exercise prior to jumping right in can also help prevent injury.

Is running worth the injury risk?

Y-E-S, yes!

By-and-large, running is very healthy. It can reduce stress, help with weight management, and aid in lowering blood pressure. By far, these benefits outweigh the injury risks.

Although many running myths insinuate that running can cause knee and other joint issues, there is no research to back up these claims. In fact, there is a much higher percentage of the general population who need knee and joint replacements than those in the running population. The number-one factor that leads to these types of procedures is obesity, which runners tend to avoid.


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Category: Staying Active     Tags: CardioExerciseMen's HealthPhysical TherapyWeight LossWomen's Health