Being a runner can be tough on your body. Pushing your limits and running for hours on end puts your entire body through quite the beating—especially when you are just starting out.
The goal of this article is to help runners from all levels, whether you have been running for years or are just looking to get started, develop good habits to avoid injuries in the future.
Here are the nine common runner injuries and how they happen. Let's start off by sharing that running injuries occur most often due to overuse.
9 Most Common Running Injuries That All Runners Endure
1. Runners Knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome)
What is Runner's Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)?
Runner's knee is most common running injuries among beginners and middle-aged runners. It happens when there is too much pressure being placed on the joint connecting the kneecap and thigh bone, often from an overuse injury.
The pain is normally felt behind the kneecap. Runners who experience runner's knee are advised to slowly transition into running and let their bodies get used to it instead of taking on too much too soon.
They should use proper posture while running, making sure they keep their knees directly above their ankles rather than letting them angle inwards or outwards.
Proper footwear is also recommended because improper support can cause excessive pressure to be placed on the patellofemoral joint and aggravate the condition more quickly.
The most common injury, knee pain from running can be due to a number of causes, including:
- Tendonitis in the knee (including iliotibial band syndrome)
- A torn meniscus
- Stress fractures
Runners Knee Treatment Tips
The pain from runners knee can be typically resolved by:
- Rest from running
- Use ice to reduce pain and swelling
- Stretch the IT (iliotibial band), quadriceps, and hamstrings to relieve tension in the knee joints and surrounding muscles.
- Compression bandages and braces can be used to provide relief from the pain and to support the knee joint.
Take anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or aspirin If you suffer from runners knee, remember that it is possible to get back out there – but don't try to take on too much, too quickly.
For serious cases of runners knee which do not respond to home treatment methods, runners should consult a doctor for proper advice.
How To Avoid Knee Pain As A Runner:
Proper footwear is essential—especially when you are just starting out! You'll want to find a pair of shoes that provide plenty of support for your arches and heels without being too tight at the toes (where your toes should be able to wiggle freely).
If you already have runner's knee, try switching up your routine by doing some cross training exercises like swimming or cycling instead of pounding away on pavement with every run.
When it comes to keeping your knees safe while running remember three key tips:
- warm up and cool down appropriately,
- pay attention to foot placement on uneven surfaces
- stretch before starting out on any long runs
2. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a common runner's injury that happens when the band of tissue running under the foot, called the plantar fascia, becomes inflamed often time casing a sharp pain in the bottom of your foot. This can lead to heel pain and a sensation like having a pebble or stone in your shoe.
Plantar Fasciitis causes include:
- Improper footwear
- Excessive pronation (flat feet)
- Tight calf muscles
Plantar Fasciitis Treatment Tips:
If you have plantar fasciitis, try warming up before you run and wearing supportive shoes with good arch support. You may also want to try stretching your calves and plantar fascia before you run.
If you are a heavy heel striker, don't run as much until your condition improves. Ice your heel after running and over the next week to help reduce inflammation.
If it doesn't improve in a few weeks, make an appointment with your doctor about possible treatment options.
3. Achilles Tendinitis
What is Achilles Tendinitis?
Achilles tendinitis is running related injury that affects the tendon located at the back of the lower leg above your heel.
It most commonly develops after an increase in mileage, it is often achier within the first mile, and typically will not go away without some sort of intervention. Typically the pain radiates behind or around the heel area. A strain-like feeling in your hamstrings and calf muscles.
Achilles Tendinitis Treatment Tips:
Over-the-counter pain medications can be taken to control pain, anti-inflammatory medications may also help but you should consult with your physician prior to taking.
Resting for a few days or using crutches to reduce weight on affected area will also prove helpful in getting back to normal activities.
Physical therapy may be needed for several weeks before being able to get back into running again; this will vary from one person to another depending on the severity of their injury. Keep the calf and Achilles tendon area as rested as possible in order to prevent any further damage.
Ice the sore area several times a day for 20 minutes at a time to reduce the swelling, do this after each run or work out and before going to bed at night. Compression can also help if you wear support socks after icing your ankle.
However, too much compression can make things worse so don't compress too hard on your Achilles tendon or it won't have room to heal.
4. IT Band Syndrome
The IT band is located along the outside of your thigh and connecting muscle groups from hip to knee. When it becomes inflamed due to overuse, we see runner's experience side-to-side motion of their legs as well as pain during running.
Runners are at higher risk for IT band syndrome than walkers and should try to build their mileage gradually
Treatment for IT band syndrome:
To relieve the pain, apply ice on the inflamed area and wrap it in an elastic bandage, this will help reduce swelling.
Try taking anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium (Aleve) if a lot of swelling occurs and continue icing afterwards. Elevate your leg above heart level while resting to bring down inflammation quicker; therefore reducing knee pain and stiffness as well as ankle pain.
A loose bond may also help accelerate recovery time. In addition, make sure that you stretch after every.
5. Foot Blisters
Blisters are common during long runs. This is especially true if you are just getting used to running and building up the stamina of your feet.
Blisters can form when shoes don't provide enough padding, or as a result of repetitive friction against clothing or socks. To prevent them, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather (which includes making sure that clothes are clean and dry) and apply lubricant or petroleum jelly on spots prone to friction.
If a blister already exists, it is recommended that you drain the fluid and then cover the area with gauze or band-aids.
Treatment for Foot blisters:
It may be embarrassing, but it doesn't have to be painful. Remove the shoe and socks to check for any hot spots that might indicate a blister is developing.
If you feel a spot that's tender and warm or looks like an area with skin indention, take care of it before it gets worse.
1. Gently squeeze the fluid out from under the skin.
2. Wash the area under cold running water if you have time, or just use hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and apply carefully to cleaned skin.
3. Apply antibiotic cream or petroleum jelly over the irritated area to keep debris out and help heal faster.
4. Tape both toes together so they don't rub against each other (taping can also prevent blisters from forming). If you're in a pinch use moleskin or athletic tape to help keep pressure off the area.
By taking care of blisters quickly, your foot can begin healing and you'll be back on the trails again.
In the case of a particularly thick blister, there are over-the-counter products that can be purchased to help treat it. However, once again these should be used with caution as not all are 100 percent safe for you feet.
Whatever treatment option you choose to follow, make sure that you protect your feet properly when running and take the necessary steps to avoid issues in the first place.
How to avoid getting blisters while running:
1. Keep the feet dry: Blisters are caused by friction of your shoes rubbing against the skin of your feet, which happens when they become wet due to perspiration or rain. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you practice proper foot hygiene and use a clean pair of socks before running each time; this will greatly help in avoiding blisters!
2. Socks: Choose a pair of socks made from high quality materials like cotton and spandex. Make sure the sock fits well around your toes, ankles and heels, so that there is no excess fabric for friction to occur under pressure. Also choose socks with some kind of padding in areas prone to blistering (i.e.: toes); this will ensure comfort while running and prevent friction.
3. Change your shoes: One of the most common causes for blisters is a shoe that does not fit properly; therefore, if you have experienced problems with blisters in the past, be sure to try out new shoes and change them regularly to avoid further complications (you are on your feet all day after all!). On average, runners should change their running shoes every 300-500 miles (approx. 5K steps per mile).
4. Physical Therapy: If you continue experiencing issues with foot pain or tendinitis despite taking care of hygiene and wearing proper footwear, it may be useful to consult a podiatrist who can tell you more about custom orthotics or other physical therapy options that might help you.
Athletes who have a high risk of developing blisters may consider using special tape to cover the affected area or applying antiperspirant on heels or toes (see image above). In extreme cases, some athletes are recommended to wear shoes without laces in order to avoid them rubbing against the skin and causing further friction.
Also, protective bandages can be put in place before running each time (such as adhesive band-aids); however, make sure you take extra care when putting them on so as not to create any other problems while running!
Always remember that it is important to choose proper footwear for your feet and ensure they fit properly; this will save you thousands of miles suffering from foot pain and irritation.
If you develop blisters despite all these precautions, it is likely that your shoes are not the right ones for you.
6. Calf Injuries
Calf Injury and calf pain can be caused by an abnormal growth in the muscle or inflammation of the tissue around it.
When setting off running for a long period of time, calf fatigue is quite common among runners because they are not used to dealing with such high levels of stress at once.
The main cause behind this type of injury is normally overuse due to improper form—especially if you have weak calf muscles. There are two forms of calf injuries: acute onset and chronic onset (or recurring ).
Acute onset is when the pain occurs on a single occasion; chronic onset is when it continues to keep returning every so often.
The typical symptoms of acute onset calf injury are:
Pain just below the knee joint area that increases while walking or running and then gradually subsides once you stop Excessive tightness, swelling and tenderness in your calves as well as some degree of muscle spasm Difficulty balancing or standing up straight because of weak muscles Rest is definitely recommended until you are healed. Your doctor will suggest you use crutches to avoid putting pressure on your knees for at least two weeks.
It's best to follow his/her advice instead of following through with the four steps below which focuses on treating this type of calf injuries yourself.
Lateral Ankle Sprains
Lateral ankle sprains are another common type of injury that most runners incur at some point in their running careers.
It happens when the foot is twisted while in a normal position thus causing the ligaments to stretch and tear along with some other small muscles around your ankle.
This kind of injury often occurs during fast transitions from one step to another, side-stepping or sudden changes in direction when you run.
Some symptoms include:
Swelling and tenderness around your ankles Painful popping sensation below your knee joint Pain increases as you push off the ground for each step taken (this is especially true if you try running)
Rest is the best way to treat this kind of injury. As your pain gradually subsides, you'll be able to put more weight onto your ankle until it's completely healed.
Treatment for Calf Injury :
To relieve yourself from the pain and prevent further damage to your calf area, you can try one of these remedies:
ICE your ankle and other surrounding areas for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. The cold will help decrease any swelling that might have occurred as well as relieve some of the tenderness you're feeling. Try alternating with heat after every session of icing.
Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (make sure they are safe and recommended by your doctor before taking them). Try wrapping your calf muscle area in a compression bandage to take some pressure off the injured ligaments, tendons and muscles.
7. Tight Hamstrings
Hamstring injury is quite common among runners. A tight hamstring muscle may cause pain within the leg which usually begins during the first mile of running but it may also not hurt until later when there is fatigue associated with it.
Runners with this type of injury will have difficulty or pain while attempting to run uphill as well as prolonged sitting if they have an extended break from running.
Treatment for Tight Hamstrings
The most important factor in tightening hamstrings is overuse rather than limiting mileage; therefore, stretching is very important for preventing injury. You can use the following three exercises for stretching when you're injured as well as for preventive measures:
1) Standing Hamstring Stretch (for Medium Flexibility Level)
Standing straight, hold an object for balance while placing one foot in front of the other with a small gap between them. Bend the knee of your lead leg. Slowly lower your body forward until you feel a pull in the back of your thigh and then slowly rise back up to starting position. Repeat 10 times each on both legs.
2) Lying Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch (for High Flexibility Level )
Laying on your back, raise one leg with bent knee towards ceiling until it's perpendicular to floor. Pull the other foot towards your buttocks as you press the knee of the raised leg down gently. Hold for 20 seconds and then switch to other leg. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
3) Lying Bent Knee Hamstring Stretch (for Low Flexibility Level )
Laying on back with one knee bent, pull it away from the other until you feel a slight strain in your hamstring muscle. You should hold this position while trying to relax all body parts beside your thigh.
Once sensation is felt, slowly release that stretch, rest for 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times if necessary for each side. As flexibility increases you may progress to higher levels of stretching by standing or lying on your stomach
8. Shin Splints (medial tibial stress syndrome)
Shin splints pain begins at the inner portion of your shin bone and can be quite painful. They often occur after a long run or workout and are caused when there is an imbalance of muscles in the shins, resulting in stress on the bone.
The most effective way to deal with this is to do exercises that strengthen your lower leg muscles, like lunges or calf raises.
You should also try to take regular breaks throughout your run instead of running continuously for long periods of time.
If you are past the beginning stages of your running career and have been using the same shoes for a very long time, it is probably a good idea to get a new pair. Running in worn-down sneakers can cause excessive strain on certain areas of the body.
Treatment for Shin Splints
Wear proper shoes and use the following stretches to loosen your muscles:
1) Kneeling Shin Stretch (for High Flexibility Level )
This will stretch the lower leg muscles that are commonly used when running. It can be performed by kneeling on a cushion with you bare foot on the floor. Place a towel around your toes with fingers interlaced behind it. While maintaining an upright posture, lift up your hips so that you feel a pull in your shin muscle. Hold for 20 seconds and then switch legs, repeat 3-5 times on each leg.
2) Shin Stretch with Towel (for Medium Flexibility Level )
This stretch will help increase the range of motion in your lower leg muscles. Position yourself on all fours, lift one foot off the ground and grab a towel with it. Pull that leg to the side until you feel some strain in your shin muscle. Hold for 20 seconds and then switch legs, repeat 3-5 times for each leg.
3) Calf Stretch (for Low Flexibility Level )
Place both feet on floor shoulder width apart while sitting straight up and leaning forward from waist until a pull is felt in calf muscle. Hold this position for 20 seconds and then stand back up, rest for 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times each if necessary.
9. Soreness and Tight Muscles
Soreness is a very common problem among runners, especially beginners. It can be caused by many things such as running too far or too long for your fitness level or training on terrain that's too hilly.
There are other causes, but these are the most typical ones among runners. Soreness in legs and feet can be quite annoying when you go to do another run session and must deal with it while running again.
The best thing to do is RICE (rest, ice, compression & elevate). If you don't want to follow this process every time then just apply 'R' before doing more running sessions until soreness has subsided.
The other option might be a hot tub, Hot tubs have proven benefits for runners.
Treatment for Sore Muscles and Legs Tightness
Use the following stretches to loosen you muscles:
1) Wall Calf Stretch (for High Flexibility Level )
Stand with your backs against a wall. Slide down until both legs are fully extended and you feel a pull in your calf muscles. Hold for 20 seconds, rest 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times each leg if necessary.
2) Wall Hip Flexor Stretch (for Medium Flexibility Level )
This stretch is used to stretch the hip flexors which are most often tight when running up and downhill. Stand facing the wall while placing one hand on it behind you at shoulder height. Bend one knee back behind you and push your hips forward until you feel a pull. Hold for 20 seconds, rest 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times each leg if necessary.
3) Standing Toe Touch (for Low Flexibility Level )
Stand up straight while keeping your feet shoulder width apart. Pick up your right foot as high as possible and touch the top of the toes to your knee. Repeat with the left foot. Do 3-5 sets of this for each foot if necessary
Stretching every day is a good habit to get into even when you are not feeling sore or tight because it will make you more flexible and help prevent injury in future runs by increasing circulation which can also reduce muscle soreness after a long run.
3 Keys To Surviving A Race Day Injury:
1) Stay Positive - if you start to feel pain, immediately recognize that this is just part of racing and be proactive about managing your own energy levels so as not to further aggravate that area. It's important to stay positive throughout an injury because it will help promote healing mentally/emotionally as well as physically.
2) Build Your Strength - when recovering from injury it's important to build strength around the injured area.
3) Be Flexible - don't be afraid to try something new, experiment and always push yourself mentally and physically!
Running injuries are common. Everybody will experience them at some point. It is a part of the body learning to adapt. Start off slow, build endurance and strength, and stay flexible!
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Me.