Preventing Running Injuries

Preventing Running Injuries

June 4, 2024

Running can be a great way to enjoy time outside and keep your heart and body healthy. Many people choose running as a recreational exercise and some even run competitively in races. While running is a valuable cardiovascular activity and a fun form of exercise for many individuals, it can also lead to many common injuries, usually as a result of overuse. 

Most running injuries are the result of overuse or repetitive stress, where certain soft tissues are repeatedly subjected to small stresses that, over time, cause tissue breakdown, leading to injury and pain. 

Common lower leg and foot injuries include: plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, calf strains, and shin splints (tendinitis of the anterior or posterior tibial muscles). Three main causes of these injuries are: dysfunctional foot biomechanics, limited ankle mobility, and limited hip mobility. These dysfunctions cause similar stresses on the lower leg and ankle/foot region: too much rotational stress in the trailing leg/foot/ankle right before toe off (when the trailing leg leaves the ground as the runner is about to take their next step forward). This phase of the gait cycle puts a lot of stress on the runner’s foot/ankle, and if there is dysfunction along the lower extremity chain, this can place excessive rotational demands on the leg and foot, which can lead to irritation of the surrounding soft tissue structures. 

Common knee injuries in runners include: patello-femoral pain syndrome (“runner’s knee”), patellar tendonitis, and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. The leading causes of these running injuries are also dysfunctional foot mechanics, limited ankle mobility, and/or limited hip mobility. Usually as a result of not enough motion at these joints, excessive rotation at the knee joint can place increased stress on the soft tissues surrounding the knee joint, which can result in overuse injuries. 

Many people focus on treating pain and inflammation when treating overuse injuries, using things such as ice, massage, and other soft tissue work. While these interventions can temporarily help with symptoms, they do not address the underlying cause and are not preventative in nature. 

One of the best ways to prevent running overuse injuries is to have a good training plan in place. A good training plan very gradually increases mileage, not increasing mileage by more than 10% per week. Another important prevention method is to ensure enough recovery time after running. 

Treatment strategies that address the underlying biomechanical dysfunction include stretching and mobilizing the hips and ankles, strengthening weak stabilizer muscles, and sometimes stabilizing the foot/ankle with an orthotic when appropriate. Education on running plans can also play an important role in preventing overuse injuries. 

If you are experiencing any running injuries or are limited in your training due to a history of overuse injuries, we’d love to help you get to the root cause of your pain. Not only do we have many tools to address your current pain and inflammation, but we can also implement preventative measures to minimize the risk of future injury and get you back to your running goals!