Common Running Injuries
Plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee and shin splints, just to name a few; if you’re a runner, chances are that you’ve sustained one of these common running injuries or know someone else who has.
Rather than jumping the gun and assuming that having knee pain or a sore ankle has to mean an abrupt halt to your training, having a little insight to how to address that annoying tweak or twinge before it turns into a full blown injury can mean the difference to a healthy, pain free running season and having to take time off from the activity you love the most!
Let’s first look into each of these common issues as well as how to prevent and treat them.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain, involving pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes.
Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runner’s knee, got its nickname because it’s common among runners. The stress of running can cause irritation where the kneecap (patella) rests on the thighbone. The resulting pain can be sharp and sudden or dull and chronic, and it may disappear while you’re running, only to return again afterward. While biomechanical issues may be to blame, the cause can often be traced back to poorly conditioned quadriceps and tight hamstrings. Weak quads aren’t able to support the patella, leading it to track out of alignment, and inflexible hamstrings can put pressure on the knee .
Shin splints are a way to describe pain, resulting from excessive amounts of force on the tibia and the tissues attaching the tibia (shin bone) to the muscles surrounding it.
The excessive force causes the muscles to swell and increases the pressure against the bone, leading to pain and inflammation felt along the inner edge of your tibia.
Shin splint pain concentrates in the lower leg between the knee and ankle. Your doctor may refer to the condition as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).
Shin splints frequently affect people who engage in moderate to heavy physical activity. You may be more likely to develop shin splints if you participate in strenuous physical activities or stop-start sports such as tennis, racquetball, soccer, or basketball. Sometimes the pain of shin splints can be so intense that you must stop the activity.
Do you see any commonalities across all three conditions?
Inflammation. Pain. Soft Tissue. Muscle. Tightness. Weakness.
Why is this significant?
Consider your body as an intricate work of architecture. The body is, after all, often regarding as a kinetic chain, with everything playing a role in how fluidly we move, or how stiffly we sit still.
While a background in exercise physiology or biomechanics is helpful in understanding this, isn’t not necessary.
Simply understanding that having a sore knee joint, for example, is not properly addressed only by doing an analysis of that particular area, can be your ticket to first finding the right expert to diagnose what’s going on in the early stages, as well as provide you the guidance you need in terms of what corrective exercises, stretches and other treatments are in order.
Tuning into how your body feels and learning to distinguish between the feeling of muscle fatigue at the end of a long training run and real pain caused by trauma, for example, is key at managing your body and keeping running in your life for the long run (oh, dear, that wasn’t a very good pun).
Let’s get back to that sore knee example.
What could it mean?
- You might have weak quads aren’t able to support the knee cap leading it to track out of alignment, and inflexible hamstrings can put pressure on the knee.
- You could have tight calf muscles, puling the posterior aspect of your legs in an unbalanced manner.
- You might be wearing the wrong type of shoes, which are causing your foot into pronation or supination.
- You could be running on poor surfaces.
- Your diet could be inflammatory, which isn’t helping the situation.
Just five potential reasons of many, none of which have to lead to the conclusion that running is bad for you or that you don’t have the type of body suited for running or that you’re too old, all of which are comments I’ve heard from clients who’ve stopped running prematurely.
So how do we address these, or other common running issues?
Find a good practitioner, hopefully one who is an athlete himself or herself, who can address what is going on and get to the route of the cause. It could be a physical therapist, a chiropractor that offers ART or any of a list of other athletic injury professionals.
If they do hands on muscle testing, a gait analysis and give you recommendations for exercises and stretches, you’re in good hands. If they tell you you’re headed straight to surgery or suggest pain meds, get out of there fast!
Another part of the picture is to incorporate regular massage, also from a qualified therapist who knows the human body and works comprehensively on all the muscle groups.
Also, be sure you’re wearing the right type of footwear.
Running barefoot has a place in a well rounded training regime, but don’t make the mistake of going au naturel in one fell swoop if you’ve been running in trainers all this time.
As an example, I run in trail shoes on the trails, where I do a lot of my longer runs, a neutral running shoe for speed work on the treadmill or track and a racing flat for an open marathon.
Running surfaces should also be chosen carefully.
Dirt or trail paths are much healthier and offer far less pounding compared to cement or even road; incorporating some water running or a recovery workout on grass can also be ideal.
Above all else, remember that your body wants to heal and you have the tools to support it, or choose to ignore it, but doing the latter can lead to adverse consequences.
Whatever you do, don’t let anyone tell you that running is bad for you; it’s quite possibly the most natural type of activity we can engage in!
 “Plantar Fasciitis.” – Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015
 “Runner’s Knee.” Runner’s World. Runner’s World, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015
 Johnson, Shannon. “Shin Splints.” Shin Splints. Health Line, n.d. Web
Nell, I would love to run again but I have virtually no cartilage in one knee and very little in the other. I walk and bike daily and over the years have also built up the muscles with atrength exercises around my knees to avoid a knee replacement, which my doc (who was the doc for the USOlympic Ski Team) wanted to do in 2004. I am 62 years old. He told me never to run again. Are you saying to go after a second opinion? Are you sure you want to voice that anyone can run, because I’ll take you up on it in a heartbeat!
Hello! Yes, I would certainly encourage you to seek a second opinion! I am obviously not able to comment on your particular history and prognosis, not being a doctor and not working with you in person, however, I can say that I do know of people who were told they could never walk (or run, or cycle, you name it!) again and with determination, perseverance and the right medical team, were able to overcome great odds. So, yes- it will not hurt to pursue more opinions!
Thank you! I am