Common Running Injuries and Prevention Strategies
With the running calendar for the year getting closer and closer as spring is around the corner this is a brief blog regarding the most common running injuries and how to combat them. Up to 79% of runners will get injured in any given year1, so making sure you know what the main ones are and how to prevent them it key to sustaining your fitness and reaching your running goals.
The most prevalent injuries unsurprisingly occur within the lower body injuries, however upper body injuries do occur as a result of falls or load carrying (backpacks etc). Below are the most common running injuries:
Most Common Injuries Resulting from Running:
- Patellofemoral Pain (knee pain)
- Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome
- Tibial stress Fractures/ syndromes
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendonitis 2
Of these I have experienced them all apart from No. 3, thank fully, at some point in time and prevention is much easier, cheaper and less frustrating than trying to get over some of these injuries whilst continuing to train.
The aetiology (causes) of running injuries are multifactorial but the main ones being overtraining, previous injury history, inappropriate /poorly fitting footwear as well as poor running mechanics. These are confounded if there are a combination of these risk factors and then perpetuated by an increase in weekly running mileage and history of previous injury as found in male runners specifically3.
Among many anatomical differences in your running style / mechanics (gait and leg length differences and foot arch height) the biggest factor which impacts on lower body injuries, that we do have control over, is muscle strength imbalances in the lower limbs. This is the easiest preventative measure to make when planning your run training along with making sure you have the correct foot wear. Imbalances place greater strains on particular areas of the body finally leading to injury. E.g. if your gluteals are weak and inhibited then you can end up having ITB injury. With weak muscles fatigue sets in quicker and this is when injuries can occur as joint integrity is compromised.
Top tips to reduce injury:
- Listen to your body- if you’re feeling fatigued and supposed to be doing a tempo run then don’t, reduce the intensity and take it slow. Or even cross train taking a low impact option instead like swimming or cycling.
- Develop a specific training plan that from what you know about your own body and weaknesses as well as how you like to train. Everyone is different and an off the peg 10km training plan may not work best for you.
- Get fitted with the correct shoes to suit your feet and running gait as well as the intended terrain you plan running on. Replace every 400-500 miles too.
- Mobility and flexibility- make sure you cool down and stretch post runs, use the foam roller, attend yoga classes and also book in some regular sports massages. This will keep you supple and stop your muscles getting tight and fatiguing potentially leading to injury.
- Strength training is key- make sure you address your weaknesses and stay balanced. Work on a good foundation of muscular endurance and then focus on strength training on your areas of weakness to stop early fatigue and compromised running mechanics.
- Nutrition and hydration- stay hydrated and make sure you fuel yourself when training and running, both pre, during and after to gain the most from your training into race day.
From my own experience, which is backed up by research4, the majority of running injuries are due to a sudden increase in mileage or excessive mileage. Again, it takes experience to know when to back off and take it easy so if you have the guidance of a trainer, or experienced runner then listen to them as they will save you a lengthy and painful injury & recovery process.
If you want any advice on how to structure your training for a race, how best to increase your distance/mileage or in a strength training program to improve your running, then please get in touch and we can discuss how I can help you.
Currently I am training myself for my 1st 100km Trail Ultra Marathon in June and chasing a PB in my road ½ and full marathon in April.
1 Altman A, Davis IS. (2012) Barefoot running: biomechanics and implications for running injureis. Current Sports Medicine Reports 11(5):244-50.
2 Taunton JE, Ryan MB, Clement DB, McKenzie DC, Lloyd-Smith DR, Zumbo BD. (2002) A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British Journal of Sports Medicine 36(2): 95-101.
3 van Gent RN, Siem D, van Middelkoop M, van Os AG, Bierma-Zeinstra SMA, Koes BW. (2007) Incident and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine 41(8): 469-80.
4 Jacob SJ, Benson BL. (1986) Injuries to runners: a study of entrants to a 10,000 metre race. The American Journal of Sports Medicine 14 (2): 151-5.