Running is one of the most popular fitness exercises around the world and whether for fitness or because you simply enjoy running it’s a great way to lose weight, improve your fitness and challenge yourself mentally and physically. But unfortunately, not everyone is able to run as more and more people struggle with injuries that prevent them from lacing up their running shoes and hitting the streets or their nearest treadmill.
In this article, we are going to look at some of the most common injuries that can occur whilst running and also look at what you can do to fix them.
Common Injuries That Many Runners Experience
The most common cause of heel pain and with the main symptom being pain on the bottom of the foot and around the heel, plantar fasciitis can cause a lot of runners pain, eventually causing them to stop running altogether if left untreated.
The plantar fascia is the ligament that runs along the bottom of your foot, from your toes to your heel, connecting the two and offers support to the arch of the foot.
If the plantar fascia is strained or weakened then it can become very painful to stand or walk, let alone run and if it is strained repeatedly then tiny tears in the ligament appear, leading to Plantar Fasciitis.
How to treat it
There is no outright winner for treating plantar fasciitis and some methods may work better than others, however, with severe heel pain one of the first actions you should take is to get off your feet and rest, avoiding putting any more pressure on the plantar fascia ligament or on the heel.
Other methods known to help include icing your heels to try and reduce the swelling and inflammation and completing toe and calf stretches to try and loosen the ligaments and muscles around the foot.
Finally getting a good pair of running shoes, one which supports the arch and has a cushioned sole and heel can also prove effective in helping to reduce the pain felt and reduce the strains placed on the plantar fascia.
Shin splints are best described as a deep pain down and around the shins and it can also feel like a sharp shooting pain either towards the inside or outside of the shins. It is caused by runners putting repetitive stress on their feet and legs and can also be caused by poor running technique, poor training technique and inefficient rest.
New runners who push themselves too far, too soon, often develop shin splints as they add more pressure than they are used to, to their legs.
Runners who put this type of strain on their body but don’t rest and recover efficiently can also develop shin splints as a result of not giving their body the chance to heal after a hard session.
How to treat it
If you develop shin splints your first action should be to reduce your activity levels by at least half and give your legs a chance to heal and recover. You should also add more rest and recovery days to your week to give your legs a chance to improve after each run.
Most of your time will be spent on trying to reduce the inflammation in your legs.
Some medical professionals will provide anti-inflammatory tablets to help you heal faster and by icing your legs after a workout you can also help reduce and prevent inflammation on your own.
Compression shin sleeves can also be used as another measure to support your recovery but none of these factors will work if you don’t let your body naturally heal, rest and recover.
One of the most common injuries known is aptly named runners knee, although it can affect others too. Often used as a wider term to describe knee pain as a whole, ‘runners knee’ often presents itself as irritation, pain and discomfort of the cartilage, just underneath the kneecap.
It can be made worse or become more of a nagging pain after long runs, when running down hills or stairs and it can even flare up when you’ve been sat inactive for too long a time.
Poor running technique, especially where extra stress is added to the knee can lead to runners knee but it has also been found to be an issue in people with weak glutes, hips and quads, all of which can impact your technique.
How to treat it
Although painful, it is possible to continue running, although with a much reduced activity level, and so ultimately, your best option is rest and recovery to avoid making the injury worse.
Lower body strength training, especially advanced fitness methods such as eccentric training, can have a huge impact on those suffering from runners knee and is one of the best methods to actually improve the condition as you strengthen the muscles and tissue around the knee but also get the body used to taking load and repeated stress, in a controlled and low impact form.
Addressing any imbalances in the glutes, hips or quads can also help as you improve your balance and technique and strengthen the weaker muscles in the body which will be having an adverse effect on your technique and balance.
Achilles tendonitis is a common injury that most runners have some experience with and is brought about when the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel, comes under too much stress, becomes irritated and tight, leading to tendonitis.
It can be more common in runners that increase their training intensity and also include more hill runs or speedwork. It is even more likely if the runner suffers from weak or tight calves.
Achilles tendonitis can cause sharp pains in your calf, stiffness and immobility in the ankle and soreness around the ankle and calf.
How to treat it
You shouldn’t run when you have Achilles tendonitis, instead, you should immediately begin work to deal with the problem. It is relatively easy to fix, especially if caught early, and it may only be a minor setback, whereas if you continue to push through the pain, you could cause a much worse injury.
Applying ice up to 5 times a day will help and strength work, focussing on the lower body and calves in particular, such as heel drops will also help to strengthen the calves.
Once you are stronger and the pain has gone you should continue to strengthen the calves daily and avoid anything which adds undue stress to the calves.
For people that think running is as simple as lacing up your running shoes and heading out the door, it may come as a surprise to learn that such a laid back approach could actually be doing more harm than good.
Equally, if you’re someone that swears by running and you can’t understand why you keep getting injured then it would be a good idea to take another look above at the common fixes for most problems.
Adding stretch and mobility work to your weekly routine and prioritizing rest and recovery is one of the most important things you can do to support your progress and effectiveness as a runner, helping to reduce the risk of injury and reduce the stress and pressure felt on the body.
Resistance training, especially eccentric training where you move a weight in a controlled manner through the lowering part of the exercise, is also another good form of preventative action you can take to reduce your risk of injury.
Actually, resistance training as a whole can help to address any imbalances or weak muscles around your body and start to help you build a fitter, stronger, healthier body that is more balanced and aligned and biomechanically efficient.
Of course, none of these things means you have to give up running or change your approach, but simply by including resistance work 2-3 times a week and making stretch and mobility work an important part of your routine, you can put yourself in a much better position to avoid future injuries and improve your chances of enjoying better, stronger, more enjoyable runs.