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5 Common Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them

7 Aug, 2023 |

Running is a great form of exercise that can be done year-round, indoors on a treadmill or outdoors. You can participate in fun runs, short distance races, marathons, and ultra marathons.

As you get serious about running, be aware of these five common, repetitive overuse injuries. Recognize their symptoms and understand their causes. Train smart by focusing on prevention so you can run strong all year long.

Common Running Injuries

Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS)

knee pain

Have you ever experienced pain down the side of your hip on the outside of your knee? It could be iliotibial band syndrome. The iliotibial (IT) band is a tendon that starts at the top of your pelvic bone (posterior iliac crest) and runs down to the tibia (the shin bone).

ITBS occurs when the IT band gets so tight that it rubs against the femur, the thigh bone. There are various causes including repetitive overuse by training from downhill running or on uneven surfaces, muscular imbalances, hip and knee misalignment, and excessive foot pronation (your foot rolls inward).

Patellar tendonitis

upper knee pain

If you feel pain at the front of your knee below your kneecap (patella), your patellar tendon may be inflamed. Patellar tendonitis is an overuse injury of the patellar tendon which connects the patella to the tibia. It assists muscles that extend or straighten the knee.

Running, jumping, and especially landing on hard surfaces stress the patellar tendon leading to little tears of the tendon. As these tears multiply from repetitive movement, they cause pain, swelling, and weaken the tendon. Causes include sudden increases in intensity and mileage particularly downhill running, tight quadriceps, hamstrings, and IT band, and hip and knee misalignment.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Dull or achy pain around the kneecap is a sign of runner’s knee or patellofemoral pain syndrome. Repetitive overuse from running stresses the knee joint, causing irritation under the kneecap. This occurs when your kneecap is misaligned, moving to the inside or outside of the trochlear groove each time the knee bends.

Weak or imbalanced quadriceps can cause improper tracking of the kneecap within the groove. Other factors that can cause patellofemoral pain syndrome are sudden increases in intensity, tight hamstrings, and hip and knee misalignment.

Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome)

shin splints

Pain along the shin bone is a telltale sign of a shin splint. Your shin or tibia runs from under your knee to your ankle. High impact and repetitive stress from running result in micro tears and inflammation in the muscle, tendon, and bone tissue around your shin.

Heel strike is a major culprit. Running steep downhills strains the lower legs. With each stride you land heavily on the heels. Your shin muscle, tibialis anterior, is literally putting on the brakes to slow you down. Shin splints are caused by a spike in training intensity and mileage, improper foot biomechanics, and improper running technique.

Achilles tendinitis

ankle pain

Are you experiencing difficulty walking and pain in the back of the heel? These are symptoms of Achilles tendinitis. The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to your heel bone.

Tightness and small range of motion through the calf increases the pulling sensation through the Achilles tendon and furthermore increases the pulling of the heel bone away from the plantar fascia. Achilles tendinitis is triggered by a spike in training intensity, new runners who are deconditioned, improper foot biomechanics, and improper running technique from flat feet.

Running Injury Prevention Tips

Change up running surfaces

Each surface you run on impacts your body in a unique way. Your body can adapt well, but since running is already a repetitious sport, switching up the surface you run on will help teach your body to adapt and stay healthy. If the treadmill is your go-to, try adding in a trail or road run occasionally. If you typically run outdoors on hard surfaces, incorporating treadmill workouts can be extremely beneficial by reducing stress on joints.

Matrix brand ambassador, Taggart VanEtten, is an ultra-distance runner who learned by trial and error the importance of integrating treadmill runs into his weekly volume to prevent injury. When he started increasing mileage to over 120 miles per week, he started getting niggles that led to Achilles tendinitis. By changing his workouts to around 75% of his mileage on the treadmill and the remainder outside, he has been able to stay injury-free.

man running on treadmill

Running Footwear

Make sure you have about half an inch of space between the end of the longest toe and the end of your running shoe. When buying new shoes, test their fit at the end of the day when your foot is the largest.

If you run up to 10 miles per week, consider replacing your shoes about every 9 to 12 months. Most of a shoe's shock absorption is lost after about 350 miles of use.

Warm-up, cool down, and stretch

Begin each run with a proper warm-up. Take at least five minutes to warm your body up. This may be a brisk walk or a light jog. Get your blood flowing and feel your body temperature rise.

Follow up with dynamic stretching, especially for your feet, ankles, legs, and hips. After your run, cool down. Let your body temperature lower as you slowly stretch your body out again. This time using static stretching.

Dynamic stretching and static stretching

After a thorough warm up, stretch dynamically. This is an active type of stretching, moving your muscles and joints through your range of motion to prepare your body for movement.

Stretch statically after you have cooled down. Give your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, IT band, calves, shins, and feet lots of attention. Relax and statically stretch each area for at least one minute. Static stretching lengthens your muscles for increased flexibility and helps your body recover faster.

Gradually increase your mileage and gradient

Give your body sufficient time to adapt to the training load and inclination. Gradually increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week of your mileage. Slowly build your way up to running steep hills until your body is accustomed to it.

Combine running outdoors and indoors. Training on a treadmill is an excellent way to precisely control the incline you’re running on. Running on a treadmill is easier on your joints. There’s less impact on your body because the belt on a treadmill is softer than most outdoor surfaces.

Strength train

Strengthen your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, IT band, calves, shins, and feet with resistance training. Squats and lunges are outstanding exercises to strengthen all the lower body muscles. Be sure to be properly aligned and use excellent form all the time.

Just as you gradually increase training intensity, gradually increase the weight you use for your strength training. To prevent muscular imbalances, be sure to also strengthen your core (i.e., plank and dead bug) and upper body (i.e., chest press, rows and back extensions).

In summary

Create your ideal running routine consisting of a warm-up with dynamic stretching. Wear quality footwear. Gradually increase your run intensity and mileage. Afterwards, cool down and stretch. 

Of rouse, if you are experiencing pain when running, be sure to consult your physician or a physical therapist show specializes in running.

Train for fun, fitness, and safety by following these running injury prevention tips.

_______________________________________________________________

About the Author

woman in read athletic shirt smilingAudrey Lee, PhD, Matrix Master Trainer, USA

Audrey Lee is a performance coach and sport nutrition coach. She has her PhD in exercise science and her master’s degree in nutrition. Her credentials and certifications include AFFA group fitness instructor, Spinning Star 3 instructor and YA 200 hour. Audrey’s passion is to inspire people to take better care of themselves, body, mind, and spirit. She coaches athletes to reach their goals by becoming in tune with body cues to optimize their nutrition and training.

 

 

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease or medical condition. Seek the advice of your health care provider before making changes to your diet, daily activity, sleep or fitness routine and any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Matrix Fitness assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions or advice given in this article. Always follow the safety precautions included in the owner's manual for your fitness equipment.

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