Running. It is one of those activities that hurts so good. It isn't meant to be an activity that causes pain, but one that challenges you to push a little harder and sweat a little more. Let's just go ahead and admit the crazy thing about runners: We secretly love that soreness we get after those long training runs where we push a little harder and feel that runner's high.
So when we start to experience the kind of pain that is unenjoyable and almost unbearable, it is important to know when to back off and take careful strides. Don't overlook those aches and pains that could turn into something more serious. Here are a few injuries that are very common in new and experienced runners.
- This refers to medial tibial stress syndrome, which is an achy pain that results from small tears and inflammation in the muscles around your tibia (that’s your shin bone).
- Developing shin splints indicates that you may have done too much too quickly. It could also mean that you are wearing the wrong shoes, or a pair with too many miles on them.
- To lower the risk of shin splints, try increasing mileage gradually rather than all at once. To further prevent shin splints, be sure that you are in the right shoe for your feet. Shoe inserts that provide more support and are shock absorbent may also help lower the inflammation of the shins. Have your feet and walking style evaluated by one of our staff to help you find the correct shoe.
IT Band Syndrome
- The iliotibial (IT) band is found along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee. Inflammation of the IT band will usually cause pain on the outside of the knee due to rubbing on the side of the femur.
- Common explanations for IT band syndrome includes increasing mileage, downhill running, and weak hips.
- You may be more prone to this injury if you overpronate, have leg-length discrepancy, or have weak hip abductor and gluteal muscles.
- Be sure to rest if this injury flares up. Once the muscle has rested, try to strengthen the hip abductors and glutes. Try lateral side steps, side leg lifts, and one-legged squats.
- To ease and work the IT band, use a foam roller before and after you run.
- The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. When the tendon is under too much stress, it causes tightening and irritation of the tendon.
- This is common with runners who increase training too quickly and constantly deal with tight or weak calves. Improper footwear can also play a roll in Achilles tendonitis.
- In order to reduce the irritation of the Achilles tendon, calf-strengthening exercises will help support the tendon and lessen injury. Try heel drops – stand with the balls of your feet on a step, lift up on the balls of your feet and then lower your heels below the step. Do 20 reps, slowly trying with one foot at a time (practicing balance and increasing calf strength).
- This injury is the result of inflammation, irritation or tearing of the tissue on the bottom of the foot (plantar fascia). This is common in runners with very high or very low arches because both types cause the tissue on the bottom of the foot to be stretched too far away from the heel.
- Some causes of plantar fasciitis can be from extreme pronation (foot rolls inward) or supination (foot rolls outward). It can also be the result of increasing mileage too quickly.
- In order to soothe the pain, try wearing shoes with a little extra cushion, stretching the bottom of your foot by rolling a tennis ball with your foot, or adding a cushioned shoe insert.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (“Runner’s Knee”)
- This is the irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the patella, otherwise known as the kneecap. Causes can include the overuse or increased forces on the joint, meaning an increase in mileage and training.
- Weak hips and glute muscles could also be to blame for this knee injury. Try strengthening hip and glute muscles with lateral side steps with a resistance band just above the knees.
- You can try to shorten your stride length, while landing with a bent knee, in order to decrease the shock to the knee.
- A sprain happens when the ligament is stretched too far, often when the ankle rolls in or outward. Runners should always be aware of curbs, potholes and uneven sidewalks in order to prevent taking a miss-step and twisting the ankle.
- Balance exercises to strengthen the sprained ankle will help strengthen those muscles around the ankle, allowing it to withstand trips and rolls when running.
- Rest is key to a full recovery of an ankle sprain, so be sure your ankle feels normal before returning to your regular running regiment.
- Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone, caused by repeatedly pounding and heavy force that the leg bones strain to support. Runners commonly suffer from stress fractures in the shins, feet, or heels.
- Overtraining without resting increases the risk of stress fractures. Your bones and muscles need time to recover after workouts, so it is important to be sure that you take note of how your body feels before increasing training.
To keep you on your feet and active, be sure to keep track of how your body feels. Stretching before and after running can also lower the risk of injury. Check out our article Yoga for Runners.
If it hurts, give it a rest! Run healthy and run happy.