Top 10 Most Common Running Injuries ... And How to Deal With Them!

Although running injuries often display clear and distinct symptoms together with equally clear and distinct solutions, some will more readily respond well to self-treatment while others may require specialist attention. If you are unfortunate enough to pick up a running injury, check out the following realbuzz.com guide – which provides an insight into the top ten most common injuries and also details the appropriate action to take should you suffer from any of them. This guide includes advice on:

  • Injuries and symptoms
  • The best treatment(s) to use
  • How soon you can return to racing

How to use this guide

It is extremely important to remember that although there are many common injuries, your injury is individual to you and a precise diagnosis can only be made by a qualified medical practitioner or physio/sports therapist. A specialist will be able to thoroughly examine you and professionally advise you on your particular condition – so make sure you visit one!

This guide will help you identify the most likely injury that you are suffering from and is categorised according to the relevant area of the body that it affects. So if you have pain when you run, please click on the links below, because prompt action can frequently speed your recovery.

Foot injuries

Blisters

Description:
A blister is a collection of fluid between the outer layers of skin. Blisters usually occur on the feet and are caused by chafing between socks and shoes or socks and skin.
Treatment:
Either puncture blisters with a sterile needle to release their fluid and then dress them with a plaster or specialised blister pad, or leave them to act as protective 'cushions' and dress them. Also, seek to identify the cause of your blisters – which is likely to be ill-fitting socks/shoes or protruding seams which cause friction.
Raining and racing:
Provided that the discomfort isn't excessive, training and racing can continue. However, if the pain is too great, wait until new skin has formed before resuming your training.

Black and bruised toe nails

Description:
Blackened and bruised toenails are caused by a repeated impact against the toes or too tight running shoes. Generally, such damage to the toenails occurs during long runs or runs where there is a large proportion of downhill running – which can make the toes hit the inside of the front of the shoe.
Treatment:
Rest from running until the discomfort subsides. Also, check your shoes, as these may be too tight in the toe box region.
Training and racing:
Once the pain has gone, you can continue training and racing as before. Your black nails may remain long after any pain has dissipated while a new nail slowly grows underneath the damaged one.

Plantar fasciitis

Description:
This is a common overuse injury which results in inflammation of the plantar fascia – which is a connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the base of the toes. If you have plantar fasciitis you will frequently feel pain at the heel when getting out of bed, when walking, or during training.
Treatment:
Plantar fasciitis is generally slow to respond to treatment. Rehabilitation strategies include improving lower leg flexibility, ice massage, orthotics and acupuncture. Seek early advice and treatment from a sports therapist, who will be able to fully assess the condition.
Training and racing:
Until the injury is resolved, training and racing is likely to be too painful – which means early assessment and diagnosis is key.

Lower leg injuries

Shin splints

Description:
Pain in the lower leg localised at the front of the shin. Shin splints are a common problem, especially if you are new to running. There can be several causes of shin splints:
• Incorrect footwear. If your shoes have insufficient cushioning, then an excessive amount of shock can be transmitted up the leg. Alternatively, if your shoes don't provide enough support then you can over-pronate – which is when your foot collapses inwards during motion.
• Increase in training. Too rapid an increase in training can result in an imbalance between the muscles at the front of the leg and the sheaths that surround them. This means the muscles will grow faster then the sheaths, and so pressure will be caused around the shin when the muscles expand during exercise.
• Hard training surfaces. Too much training on hard surfaces can cause shin soreness – so try to run on softer surfaces to vary your training.
• Overtraining. Excessive training may result in a stress fracture of the tibia (shin bone).
Treatment:
For footwear problems, seek advice from a reputable running shoe retailer, who will be able to advise on appropriate cushioned and/or supportive shoes. Also, avoid training solely on hard surfaces such as concrete and tarmac, build your mileage slowly – increasing by no more than 10% each week – and avoid overtraining by factoring in rest days in your programme. If the problem persists then seek specialist advice, as shin soreness can indicate a stress fracture – which can only be confirmed by an X-ray.
Training and racing:
Running with shin splints will cause discomfort, so until the problem is resolved just maintain your cardiovascular fitness with alternative activities such as swimming and cycling. You may also be able to run on grass without any pain – but you should still seek to resolve the root cause of the problem.

Calf or Achilles tendon strain

Description:
Pain in one of the muscles at the back of the lower leg (calf) or in the tendon that attaches the calf to the heel (Achilles tendon). Discomfort is often worse when running uphill, because uphill running can excessively stretch the calf – particularly if you aren't used to hill training. Overuse and poor flexibility are the most likely causes.
Treatment:
Rest, sports massage to remove adhesions and align muscle fibres, and a programme of flexibility training and strengthening exercises. Specialist help and treatment is recommended.
Training and racing:
Continued training or racing will only exacerbate the injury, which could eventually result in a snapped Achilles tendon – which would require surgery and lengthy rehabilitation. Instead, focus on the treatments we've given and maintain your fitness with non-calf-loading exercise such as swimming.

Knee injuries

Runners knee

Description:
Runner's knee – or 'chondromalacia patella' – is a kneecap (patella) problem where the kneecap maltracks, thereby causing pain during running. It is frequently caused by a thigh-muscle imbalance, which can pull the kneecap out of alignment – and this imbalance can occasionally be caused by running on the side of a road where the camber can affect gait. Pain is felt in the general knee area, and this pain often builds during a run but ceases as soon as you stop.
Treatment:
Seek professional assessment and advice for remedial exercises for the thigh to correct the imbalance. A regular programme of correctly prescribed exercises will resolve the problem.
Training and racing:
Pain-free racing may prove to be possible, whereas training may cause discomfort. When racing, you are likely to be running faster, fully extending the knee and working all the muscles of the thigh equally – and so maltracking will be less likely to occur. However, when running at a slower pace during training, the thigh muscles may work unequally and pain may resume. It's best to follow the advice given to you by a professional practitioner or therapist when thinking about training or racing with runner's knee.

ITB syndrome

Description:
Pain along the outside of the knee, becoming progressively worse the further you run. The injury is caused by a tight iliotibial band (ITB), which is a band of tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the outside of the knee. If your ITB is tight, it can rub against the bottom of the thigh bone, causing pain.
Treatment:
Rest and ice to reduce inflammation, together with sports therapy and remedial flexibility exercises to stretch the area.
Training and racing:
This injury can take some time to heal because the ITB is a very inflexible tissue. So, it is advisable to abstain from running until you are pain free – otherwise the condition may become chronic.

Upper leg and hip injuries

Hamstring strain

Description:
A strain of one of the hamstring muscles located at the back of the thigh, which often occurs during an explosive activity such as sprinting, when the hamstrings are suddenly put under extreme load. A hamstring strain is more likely to occur in the early stages of a run or when the muscle hasn't been warmed up sufficiently.
Treatment:
Rest and ice to reduce inflammation, and follow this with a progressive programme of flexibility training and strengthening exercises under the guidance of a sports therapist.
Training and racing:
Hamstring injuries can become chronic if you try to return to running too soon, so it is important to maintain treatment until your therapist advises that you can resume training. Until you can resume your running, maintain your fitness by swimming instead.

Bursitis

Description:
Inflammation of a bursa (fluid-filled sac) that cushions a muscle or tendon as it passes over a joint. The inflammation causes pain around the joint area, which often becomes more severe during exercise. One of the most common sites is the hip, where pain comes on gradually due to the repeated movement of tendons over the pelvis. It is generally caused by overuse and/or inflexibility, with the tight muscles causing increased friction – but it can also be a result of an impact or arthritis.
Treatment:
The root cause of the problem should be identified. Following assessment, a sports therapist may recommend anti-inflammatory medication and stretching. More severe cases can be treated with a cortisone injection. Training volumes, running surfaces, camber, technique, gait, shoe type and how well-worn your shoes are can all affect the gait cycle – and so these should be evaluated during assessment.
Training and racing:
To be avoided while injured and initially post-injury. Only start training again when you're ready. A thorough warm-up and stretching routine will help to maintain muscle and tendon flexibility, which will limit friction.

Miscellaneous

Overtraining and chronic fatigue

Description:
Although not an injury per se, overtraining syndrome or chronic fatigue is quite common and in severe cases it can be extremely debilitating. Sufferers are usually unaware that they are suffering from chronic fatigue but indicators such as irritability, difficulty in maintaining bodyweight, frequent illnesses and infections, insomnia and impaired running performances all point towards the problem. Typical sufferers are heavy trainers who focus on high mileage and rarely miss a day's training.
Treatment:
Rest. Continued training will prevent or slow recovery. If you overtrain, your body will be denied sufficient rest and recovery, so a period of inactivity followed by a carefully structured return to running is essential. Once training is resumed, it is essential to factor in rest and easy days – and using the services of a running coach will help ensure that the situation doesn't recur.
Training and racing:
Don't train or race until you have fully recovered. In time, once you have recovered, training and eventually racing can be resumed – but until then, more training or racing will only delay recovery.

Get well soon...

There is a common theme running through the causative factors of many of these top ten running injuries, and that is: prevention is better than cure. By warming up, regularly stretching and keeping your body in balance, a great many injuries can be avoided. However, if injury does strike then prompt action is paramount to minimise downtime. When you are injured it will frequently pay dividends to seek professional advice and treatment, in addition to maintaining a home rehabilitation programme – which importantly should be continued with after you return to training so that the likelihood of re-injury is reduced. Get well soon!