Injuries are always a risk in running, whether you’ve just begun or you’ve been doing it for years. The repetitive motions involved in running can take their toll on your leg muscles, knees, hips and feet over time, and while many of them will take care of themselves with a bit of rest, this can put a dent in your training schedule.
While there are a variety of causes for the different injuries runners can suffer, most of them boil down to taking things too quickly, not training enough or wearing the wrong kind of footwear. A good, balanced training programme, a high-quality pair of shoes that suits your running style, supportive insoles, and simply listening to what your body is telling you will go a long way toward keeping you on your feet!
Here are some of the most injuries runners experience, and the best ways to avoid or deal with them:
Knee pain (Runner’s knee)
Pain in the knees can be caused by many things, but it’s usually a sign of overuse and typically affects people who have been running regularly for years. It can manifest as a dull ache or sharp pain when running and often when going up and down stairs.
This pain may be caused by the cartilage in the knee wearing down, or swelling under the kneecap. It is best to adjust your training schedule, take extra rest and stop running as soon as the pain flares up; some people find uphill runs are less painful. Gentle stretching and applying ice wrapped in a tea towel can help to soothe the pain.
Inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf to the back of the heel, can cause stiffness and pain. It’s suffered by long-distance and speed runners alike who try to do too much before they’re ready – a good training schedule will help you to avoid over-exerting yourself.
The condition can indicate that your calves are too weak for the training you’re doing, so strengthening exercises like heel drops can help to prevent flare-ups. Compression socks can also relieve tightness in the Achilles tendon.
This foot condition can be quite painful, and unfortunately it’s quite common in runners. Plantar fasciitis is caused by small tears and inflammations in the tendons and ligaments running from the heel to the toes. It feels a bit like a bruise covering the bottom of your heel or the arch of your foot, and is often most painful in the morning.
You can still run with plantar fasciitis if you take it easy, but as always you should stop if the pain becomes too intense. Wearing the right kind of running shoes can help you to avoid getting the condition in the first place, and there are also specialist shoes that make running with plantar fasciitis less painful.
Sprains are often caused by a single incident – for instance, falling over or stepping awkwardly while running. When an ankle is sprained, it means the ligament has been overstretched and partially torn, which makes running (and walking) painful.
Ankle sprains should be treated with the RICE method – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. The best way to avoid them is to wear the right running shoes, which provide support and help to stop ankles twisting, and to run on even surfaces – try to avoid bad roads, slippery mud and bumpy ground.
Shin pain is another nagging injury that’s often a result of a sudden increase in the amount and intensity of running you do. The term “shin splints” actually refers to a variety of different conditions that can cause pain in the shin area, but it’s often caused by inflamed muscles and tendons.
Applying ice and elevating the shins can help to ease the stabbing pains, but the best way to prevent it happening in the first place is to wear shoes with shock-absorbing insoles that support the arches of the foot. Running on softer surfaces may also stave off shin splints.