In the ideal runner’s world, the most difficult challenge of running would be the running itself. Unfortunately, many runners discover that the worst part of the sport is coping with the pain of unwanted injuries, fractures, and strains that result from improper technique or over-ambitious mileage. Here are the top 5 most common running injuries to be on the lookout for, and how to prevent them.
If you ever begin to feel a tender pain around your kneecap, which worsens as you continue to put pressure on your knee, you may be experiencing Runner’s Knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome. This injury is caused when runners land ahead of their bodies with a locked-out or bent knee, also known as over-striding. Weak hips, bad shoes, or tight quads can also contribute to this injury. To prevent it, pay close attention to the cadence of your footsteps—try to get your feet off the ground over 90 times per minute.
Your Achilles tendons, the tissues that connect your heel to your lower-leg muscles, are like the shocks on a car—they’re the first part of your body to absorb the impact of your footsteps. When runners don’t allow their heels to go all the way to the ground, the tendon becomes painfully inflamed. Rapid mileage increase, tight calf muscles, and being naturally flat-footed can be contributing factors to this problem, but the main preventative measure you can take is teaching yourself to let your heels to gently kiss the ground with each step.
One of the most common injuries in running, shin splints occur when the muscles and tendons covering the shin bone become inflamed. At worst, shin splints can turn into a stress fracture along the tibia—a serious injury that will cause searing pain with each stride. Shin splints can almost always be traced back to a sudden increase in training volume and intensity, which is why it is a common injury among new runners, whose legs are not yet strong enough to handle the stress. To prevent shin splints, be sure to ease slowly into your training, developing a solid base before seriously increasing mileage or speed work.
Plantar Faciitis, the inflammation of the bottom of the foot, has been described by those unfortunate enough to experience it as stepping heel-first on a nail, or walking on broken glass. This is an injury that can drag on for weeks or months if not properly addressed. To avoid it, play close attention to your strides—a heel strike followed by a strike wherein your foot slaps the ground will shock and injure your foot tissues. Pushing off or landing too suddenly on your toes can also contribute to this injury.
IT Band Syndrome
The iliotibial, or IT, band is a ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin. It attaches to the knee and helps to stabilize and move the joint. When it becomes inflamed, the runner experiences a stabbing pain in the side of the knee, especially when going downhill. To avoid this injury, stretch your quads before and after starting your run. Again, pay attention to your heel strikes, taking care not to land on the outside of your foot.
Injuries are certainly one of the most difficult parts of being a runner. However, if you pay attention to your foot strikes, stretch before your workouts, and treat your injuries early, there’s no need for an injury to keep you from the sport you love. View our compression sleeve products to recover from injury.