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Common running injuries and how to avoid them

Posted on 13 April 2017

Common running injuries and how to avoid them

Lots of you will currently be running a lot and praying you remain injury free –right? But rather than hoping, let’s explore a few practical steps you can take to avoid them. Running injuries are not unusual and in addition to the pain from the injury, there’s always the frustration of not being able to run.

Below are some common running injuries and their causes…

Runner’s Knee – This is a tender pain around or behind the kneecap and is usually a sign of patellofemoral pain syndrome, caused by general wear and tear, running downhill and muscle imbalance which put extra stress on the knees. Try sticking to flat or uphill terrain and always choose running on softer surfaces when possible.


Shin Splints –Shin splints are quite common and occur when the muscles (and tendons) covering the shins are inflamed. To help the pain try icing your shins for 15 minutes and keep them elevated to reduce swelling. Prevention is a little more difficult, however research has shown that shock absorbing insoles supporting the arch may help*. Again this highlights the importance of a good pair of shoes.


Achilles Tendonitis –This is the swelling of the Achilles which is the muscle that connects you heel to your calf and is extremely common. Causes include running too far too soon, poor footwear, tight calves or if you have flat feet. It is vital to stretch post run, especially the calf muscles and ensure you are wearing proper footwear. If you do have the pain, then anti-inflammatory tablets are a good idea (always consult a doctor) and the simple RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is a good method to help get you back on the road to recovery.


Plantar Fasciitis – Occurs with irritation, inflammation or a tear to the plantar fascia which is the tissue at the bottom of the foot. The extreme pain in the arch could be due to the excessive pounding or unsupportive footwear. Stretching the heels, extra cushion on your shoes and enough rest can help sooth your soles! If the pain does persist I highly recommend seeing a specialist.


Ankle sprain – This occurs when the ankle rolls and stretches the ligament. Any curb, pothole, tree branch or even just an unlucky landing can be the culprit. Stick to rest after the sprain occurs and depending on the severity I recommend seeing a doctor for a more specific recovery plan.


Pulled muscles – Calves and hamstrings are the most common with runners and occur when the muscle is overstretched. Not warming up is a main cause so ensure you spend some time on this. I also suggest adding in some dynamic stretching pre-run. If the pain continues, rest, stick to gentle stretching and ice the muscle.


Still set on racking up those miles? Remember there is a fine line when pushing past a fine line. Prevention is better than cure so here are some general tips to help keep injury at bay:


  • Don’t increase mileage more than 10% a week. Ramping up the miles unexpectedly is a main reason for overuse injuries.
  • Ensure you always (and I mean always) have a proper warm up and cool down.
  • Replace your runners – It’s a good idea to keep track of how many miles you run in your trainers as it is recommended to replace them every 600 miles. I highly recommend visiting a specific running store so they can help figure out which shoe will be the perfect fit.
  • Whilst off road running can be more fun, it is also more likely to twist your ankle on the un even surface, so ensure you take extra care!
  • Add in some strength training. Lifting weights can help strengthen the muscles that are important to your running which can help reduce the risk of injury.
  • Muscle and tendon injuries can occur more often in cold weather when there has been inadequate warm up so ensure you wear layers when running in the cold and focus on your warm ups and cool downs.
  • Understand your limits – overtraining is the most common cause of injury. Ensure you have at least one rest day a week as you (and your body) deserve it!

 By Lucie Colt


*The prevention of shin splints in sports: a systematic review of literature. Thacker, S.B., Gilchrist, J., Stroup, D.F., et al. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2002 Jan;34(1):32-40.


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