One of the outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic is that more people than ever before have taken up running as a hobby. As sports go, it’s easy to see why running is so popular. You don’t need to join a gym or buy expensive equipment (although you do need a good pair of running shoes), you can do it on your own or with other people and it gets you out in the fresh air which is good for your physical and mental health.
However, the downside to running is that injuries are common. And, while it’s normal to expect minor aches and pains as you build up your fitness and stamina, sustaining a serious injury that keeps you out of your running shoes for an extended period of time can be a real setback.
In this article, we look at some of the most common running-related injuries we treat and ask what you can do to avoid them.
5 common running injuries
- Plantar Fasciitis – This condition causes pain in the bottom of the foot, from the heel into the arch of the foot. The pain tends to be most acute after a period of inactivity or when you get up in the morning. You may experience it when you start running and it may subside during the run but then recur. Although structural abnormalities (flat feet or high arch) can cause plantar fasciitis, it may also be due to poor form, a sudden increase in training intensity, tight calf muscles or incorrect running shoes. To avoid the condition, build up your running schedule gradually, invest in a good running coach and proper running shoes and warm up and cool down throughly with stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Runner’s Knee – This causes pain beneath or around the kneecap and stiffness in the knee, which is worse when going up or downstairs or squatting. It can be caused or exacerbated by weak hip and thigh muscles, tight hamstrings and quadriceps muscles or flat feet. As with plantar fasciitis, inadequate running shoes or a sudden increase in training intensity can cause the condition. Exercises to stretch the calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors can help prevent Runner’s Knee, along with strengthening exercises. Aim to replace your running shoes around every 500 miles.
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome – This condition causes pain on the outside of the knee, hip or leg while running. One of the factors that contributes to iliotibial band syndrome is tight hip muscles and weak hip abductor and extensor muscles. To avoid the condition, include exercises to strengthen and stretch these muscles as part of your regular warm-up and cool-down. If you develop the condition, ice can reduce inflammation and massaging the outside of the knee may also help.
- Shin Splints – This causes pain in the shins which may start when running but then become a persistent pain over time. A number of factors can cause shin splints including poor running form, weak hip muscles, tight calf muscles and incorrect running shoes. To avoid the condition, make sure you are wearing the right shoes for your foot type and running intensity. A running shoe needs good shock absorption to decrease the stress on your shins and be aware that shock absorbing qualities decline with wear or if the shoes are wet.
- Stress fractures – This type of fracture is a repetitive strain injury which causes hairline cracks in the bone. It can affect the foot, shin, hip, thigh or pelvis and is very painful. In some cases you may need to immobilise the bone in a walking boot or use crutches to allow it to heal. To avoid this type of fracture, do not run on excessively hard surfaces, make sure you have good running technique and wear good quality running shoes.
As you can see, having a proper warm up and cool down routine with strengthening and stretching exercises, building up your fitness gradually and investing in a pair of good quality running shoes are all crucial for avoiding injuries if you run or participate in any sport that involves running.
For advice on the diagnosis and treatment of sports-related injuries contact us.