Running is great training. It burns many calories, strengthens the joints, and keeps us more positive, but it can often cause overuse injuries, all of which can be painful, awkward, and depressing.
According to some research, 80% of runners get injured every year.
Since we mainly use the lower limbs when logging the kilometres, most injuries affect the knees, feet, calves, shin, and ankles. Other injuries affect the thighs, hips, and back.
Most conditions of overuse injuries are caused from poor training practices, lack of conditioning, wrong gear, biomechanical limitations, or overtraining.
1. Running Injury- Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body.
The Injured Part
The Achilles tendon is a major tissue that connects the back of the heel to the two major calf muscles: the Gastrocnemius & Soleus muscles. This vital tendon absorbs several times our body weight on each stride.
Causes Of Injury
Increasing weekly training load too fast, especially when it’s more than 10 percent per week.
Weakness in the posterior chain muscles- the glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Tight calf muscles, especially the gastrocnemius muscle.
Improper running shoes.
Being overweight-Too much impact.
The Main Cause Of Achilles Tendinitis
The primary cause is repetitive stress to the tendon. The longer and faster we run, the more stress we put on this tendon. This causes micro-tears to the tendon eventually resulting in tendinopathy.
How To Treat Achilles Tendinitis
If you have Achilles tendinitis, take as many days off as possible. You cannot run through this injury as it will only get worse, which can take more than a few months to fully heal.
Apply ice for 10 to 15 minutes on the injured area twice daily.
To soothe the pain, stretch your calves and wear supportive shoes. Research also suggests that compression socks for hard runs relieves and prevents Achilles tightness.
How To Prevent Achilles Tendinitis
Strengthen your posterior muscles. Ideal exercises include heel drops, calf raises, lunges, squats, deadlifts, and toe walks.
Stretch your calves. Lift your toes back toward your shin while keeping your heel on the ground the entire time.
Proper form. Work on improving your foot strike and running cadence.
Consider wearing orthotics or running in shoes with more support. Avoid wearing flip-flops, high heels, or any footwear irritating the Achilles tendon.
2. Running Injury- Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are severe, traumatic, injury that affects the ankle joint. They’re pretty common among runners and athletes who do sports requiring lots of jumping or switching directions or running on technical trail.
The Injured Part
There are three types of ankle sprains. The most common ankle sprain in runners is type 1 and 2, which consists of a stretched ligament or a partial tear of the anterior talofibular ligament, the ligament in the front and outside of the ankle.
The Main Cause Of Ankle Sprains
Runners are at higher risk.
Ankle sprains happen when the foot is turning, twisting, or rolling movement. This action stretches the ligament surrounding the ankle beyond its normal range, tearing them in the process.
Causes Of Injury
Running on uneven surfaces
Missing the curb
Tripping over a rock
Stepping into a pothole
Landing awkwardly upon foot strike.
Symptoms Of Ankle Sprains
Symptoms include bruising, skin discoloration, and a limited range of motion in the ankle area. In severe cases, this ligament may also tear completely.
How To Treat Ankle Sprains
Ice the injured ankle for 15 to 20 minutes three to four times a day. Focus on the affected part first, then circulate over the swollen area. You can also wrap or compress the ankle with an elastic bandage, or kinesiology tape to ease the inflammation and speed recovery.
During the acute period, consider sleeping with the affected foot elevated higher than your chest.
How long to rest depends on the sprain’s severity, so if the injury lingers for more than two weeks, see a physician for treatments and healing recommendations.
In most cases, your physician might recommend taping the ankle, an air case, or an ankle brace to speed up recovery and/or prevent re-injury as you slowly return to your running routine.
Rules to follow to start running again:
Can run pain-free.
Have a full range of motion in the injured joint, and
the strength of the injured limb is equal to that of the healthy side.
Strengthen the muscles surrounding your ankle with balance training.
Run on proper and smooth surfaces, and avoid technical, trail, and terrains, especially if you have a history of ankle sprains.
Improve your running technique, especially your foot strike patterns and leg turnover.
3. Running Injury- Runner’s Knee
Often referred as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, a runner’s knee is associated with pain in the knee and around the kneecap. The injury is the most common cause of knee pain from running.
The Injured Part
This overuse injury is an irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap. This cartilage is located in the patellar tendon and connects to the quads muscle group.
The Main Cause Of Runner’s Knee Injury
Runner’s knee happens when the patella (the kneecap) fails to move smoothly in the femoral groove at the lower end of the thigh bone. It irritates the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap. Research show that about 40 percent of running injuries are knee injuries.
Symptoms Of Runners Knee
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome manifests as stubborn and tender pain around or behind the patella, usually under the bottom edge of the kneecap. The pain gets worse when:
Descending the stairs
After prolonged sitting
Causes Of Injury
Weak glute, hip, or quad muscles
Faulty biomechanics, especially Overpronation, is excessive inward foot rolling during a foot strike.
Too much downhill running
How To Treat Runners Knee
Decrease your running volume by half, avoid running on consecutive days, or take a break from the sport altogether.
Ice the affected joint for 10 to 15 minutes, three to four times a day. Treatment options include using a knee brace and/or knee tape or taking anti-inflammatory medication.
See your physician in case the pain gets worse. Left untreated, runners’ knees can progress into a more serious issue that may require surgical intervention, such as fracturing or fissuring the kneecap.
How To Prevent Runner’s Knee
Strengthen your knee’s support muscles, mainly the quadriceps, hip flexors, and glutes. This should help keep your knees tracking correctly over the femoral groove.
Keep your hamstrings and hip flexors flexible and loose.
Shorten your stride length while landing with the knee slightly bent. Doing so may take some impact off your knee joint.
Get proper running shoes.
Stick to flat or uphill terrain, running on softer surfaces whenever possible.
4. Running Injury- Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia.
The Injury Part
The plantar fascia is a thick band of ligaments and tendons that covers the bones along the bottom of the foot. This band of tissue runs from the heel to the toes, joining the heel and forefoot and providing arch support.
Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis
The common symptom of plantar fasciitis is a tight, tender sensation at the heel’s base that can range from irritating to excruciating.
Causes Of Injury
Weakness and/or dysfunction in the muscles of the foot may force the heel to take in more load than it can handle.
Standing for extended periods, especially on hard surfaces without supportive footwear.
Runners with abnormal feet, those with a high or low arch.
Overpronation- the excessive inward roll of the foot during a foot strike, and supination- the excessive outward roll.
Prolonged periods of standing, typically on hard surfaces without supportive footwear.
How To Treat Plantar Fasciitis
Step back from running, especially if the pain is severe, and stretch the fascia tissue at least a few times per week.
Roll your injured foot over a tennis ball, golf ball or a frozen water bottle for a few minutes, five times a day. A foam roller also helps loosen up the plantar fascia.
Stability shoes and orthotics can also help limit symptoms and support recovery, but they’re not a permanent fix, so we shouldn’t always rely on them.
Try stretching. Doesn’t have to be with a strap at first.
If the pain persists, see a physician. They might suggest putting on custom-made orthotics or a night splint to speed up recovery.
How To Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
Stretch your plantar fascia and calves consistently, especially when running in the morning, as the fascia tends to tighten overnight.
Improve your core strength, especially if you have a bad injury history.
Strengthen your calves with heel raises, toe raises, and eccentric heel drops.
Avoid using high heels or flip-flops, which can irritate this band of tissue and shorten the calf muscles.
Run in the right shoes.
Improve your running form.
Focus On A Good Running Form, Strong Core And Glutes, Avoid Overtraining, And Focus On Good Recovery To Go Back To Great Runs!