The Most Common Running Injuries (and How to Prevent Them)

Nobody wants to be injured. Running with even small teaks, aches and niggles can be frustrating and impact your overall performance — and even as an experienced runner, you are still at risk of such aches and pains.

While not every injury is serious or severe, even the minor ones can be a real inconvenience. In fact, the majority of runners will have to perform through some slight forms of discomfort.

Most running injuries are a result of overuse, with injuries most typically occurring in the feet, legs and knees of runners.

By understanding the root cause of your discomfort, you can learn to run smarter, and ensure you stay off injury-free and away from the sidelines for longer.

What are the most common running injuries?

Runners’s knee

Runner’s knee is a pain felt at the front of the knee as a result of overuse.

Vigorous training or increasing the amount of running you do can are typically the main causes of this injury. If your trainers are old and worn this could be an influencing factor, in addition to doing a lot of downhill running.

Achilles Tendinitis

This, unfortunately, counts for 11% of running injuries and occurs when there is too much stress on the tendons at the back of the ankle. This results in the tendon becoming tight and inflamed.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis occurs when small tears and inflammation of the tendons, resulting in pain felt along the arch or heel of your foot. This is most common in those with high arched feet.

Iliotibial band syndrome

This is a running injury that is most common in runners who increase their mileage too quickly. The Iliotibial band rubs against the femur, causing irritation, which results in pain felt in the hips during or after running.

Gluteus Medius Tendinosis

Gluteus Medius Tendinosis (or GMT) occurs when the proximal or distal attachment of the gluteus muscle becomes inflamed. Pain is felt along the lateral side of the hip when stood on the affected leg.

This injury is caused by a lack of strength in the glutes and core, resulting in the hip abductors working too hard and inflammation in the tendons.

Stress fractures

These can occur as a result of continuous strain on the bones, most commonly the shin, feet and heels. To prevent this, increase mileage slowly, ensure to take rest days and training to strengthen other muscles.

What does the science say?

According to studies into injury management, avoiding severe to medium levels of injury is dependant on your reaction to the initial aches and discomfort you feel.

Failing to act on them and run through a pain barrier is the difference between having a short break at the first sign of pain, to potentially a long time on the sidelines through persisting when you should be resting.

Many of the injuries listed above are initially able to be treated by rest or an easing of your running schedule and intensity.

As a majority of running injuries are the result of your body being overworked, sports scientists suggest that runners reduce the workload placed on their body in their running.

It’s reported that 80% of running injuries occur due to repetitive stress — meaning a little less intensity to your running regime could help to diminish any minor strains you have.

How can I prevent injury?

Thankfully, not every common injury is severe and can be eased and treated with a little bit of help.

With a few changes to your routine and mindset about injuries, you can ensure that you do all you can to physically work towards injury-free running.

Warm-ups can never be forgotten

As obvious as it might sound, warm-ups are completely crucial to any runners routine.

Make sure you’re doing 5 to 10-minute warm-ups before you train or run, by stretching and doing a series of cardio exercises to prepare your body for the intensity of your run.

Revise your training schedule.

Since injuries like stress fractures are caused by overuse, it is important to schedule sufficient rest days, as well as build up your mileage gradually to prevent strain. It’s all about working back up to fitness, not placing too much pressure on your body, and slowly building up the strength to be back to your best.

A popular model for runners to follow on come-back from injury is the 10% rule — where you only increase the volume of their running by 10% maximum per run.

Resting is okay

Frustrating as it may be, at some point you may have to just give your body some time to rest and heal.

As mentioned, running on with niggles and aches can be hugely costly in the long-run and can leave you out of action for weeks rather than days. Remember — it’s okay to rest, and if it prevents you from further time on the sidelines, it’s best to accept it.

Hip and glute strengthening.

Many runners only focus on the sagittal plane, through squats and lunges, without devoting time to the frontal or transverse planes.

Yet, by focusing your attention on all three, you will have maximum support — and be better for it. Having more strength in those areas gives you a further platform to avoid small injuries by building power in areas which are heavily worked during in a run.

Leg day is key.

Building up strong legs is the must for any serious runner. As such, we recommend doing strengthening exercises twice per week, and this can be crucial in your aims to prevent injury.

Single leg squats are beneficial for preventing Achilles Tendonitis. Lower yourself onto one leg without losing your balance for 5 seconds, and after this, focus on squatting slowly, gradually increasing the weight on your leg. Elsewhere, foam rolling is also a beneficial exercise to reduce tension and soften the tissue, easing the stress on your muscles.

Doing both a mixture of lateral and unilateral exercises can really help prepare your lengths with the necessary power and strength for efficient and effective running performance. Foam rolling is also beneficial to reduce tension and soften the tissue.

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