How to avoid the most common running injuries

Stay injury-free and enjoy your running!

Injury is part and parcel of any sport, especially running.

Treading miles and miles on hard surfaces can lead to overuse and result in injury. Common among new runners, a catalogue of problems can develop and stop you from running if you’re not completing regular stretching, strength work, rest and recovery.

Here are the most common running injuries and advice as to how you can avoid them:

1. Runner’s Knee

The slang term for patellofemoral pain syndrome, the runner’s knee is essentially when you experience pain under your knee cap (patella), as a result of discomfort in the cartilage. Repetition and overuse brings this on as well as weak hips and general muscle imbalances.

Rest and some time off from running, in addition to strength work, can help cure the problem long-term, while a knee brace or tape will enable you to continue running and work through the pain barrier somewhat with the assistance of some anti-inflammatory medicine.

person putting bandages on another person s knee

Strapping, whether you’re running or not, can help.

2. Shin Splints

A nagging but not too serious injury, shin splints happen when the tendons and muscles covering the shin bone become inflamed. You will feel persistent pain and tightness, though, this can be alleviated with icing and stretching, and in particular, loosening your calves and improving ankle mobility with some ankle work. Make sure you also have running shoes that fit you.

3. Plantar Fasciitis

An uncomfortable pain right at the bottom of your heel and running along the base of your foot, this is enough to make every walking step uncomfortable, let along running. Tightness in your calves and inflammation build-up can lead to this, as well as tense quadriceps, hamstrings and IT bands.

Wear shoes with extra cushioning, check you have the right fitted trainers for you and use a hard ball, stepping on it, to relieve some of the tension.

4. IT band syndrome

Commonly affecting long-distance runners, the inflammation of the IT band – the muscle running from the hip down to the knee (thick tendon from the pelvic bone to the thigh) – can prove to be a real serious problem. Foam rolling, hip flexor flexibility work and stretching are all important to alleviate the symptoms.

5. Achilles pain

Runners who naturally have tight calves can experience some discomfort at the back of the Achilles, or those who are flat-footed. Supportive shoes and improved ankle mobility is crucial to decrease the risk of damage on a thin, important joint while some ice, rest, stretching as well as tapering can help.

6. Sprained ankle

This can happen suddenly especially when you’re running off-road and on uneven surfaces where it’s easy to land in a pothole or get knocked off balance, rolling your ankle as a consequence. A sprain isn’t serious and regular rest should do the trick while ankle strengthening, flexibility and mobility work will pay large dividends.

7. A pulled muscle

We’ve all been there, it’s a frustrating feeling when you feel a tweak, tear or pull in one of your muscles. Sometimes, it just happens but there are ways to limit this possibility by properly warming up, warming down, stretching, icing and recovering fully. Rest is also another good cure should the problem persist.

8. Chafing

It’s perhaps bending the rules to include chafing as an injury but it warrants a place on this list just because of how uncomfortable it can be. Essentially, it is when your skin rubs against a running top or shorts, causing a burning sensation and plenty of irritation.

You can avoid this by wearing moisture-wicking clothing, use cream and tape/plaster over areas such as your armpits and your nipples while running. Wearing an undergarment or compression tops also help.

9. Blisters

They can really make your blood boil! Commonly, blisters pop up without much notice and as a result of your skin rubbing against your shoes, causing the skin to open, tear and result in the creation of a bubble between the layers of the skin.

Avoid the urge to ‘pop’ the blister but instead, perhaps, double-up your socks, use gels and check your footwear. Essentially, you want to try and pinpoint why they were occuring in the first instance.

10. And finally… a fitting one to end

How do you beat a stitch? We’ve all had that horrible pain on the side of our abdominal area that can get too much and bring your running to a complete halt. There’s a few reasons why this happens such as an inconsistent breathing technique when your diaphragm is moving up and down, and in and out, too quickly.

That’s why it’s important to work on a relaxed breathing style when you’re running and when you feel a stitch coming on; try bending forward, lean to the side, flex your core and start to take deeper breaths.

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