How to Avoid Common Running Injuries

Jennifer SymeBlog, running

Don’t let injury Ruin Your Running Season

Do you dream of being that runner where every step of every mile is 100% pain free? No running injuries, no aches, no twinges or niggles, no lingering soreness from yesterday’s session?
Well, you are not alone; research shows that as many as 79% of runners get injured at least once during the year.

Wait. What! That’s nearly 8 out of every 10 runners. Think about how many runners you know.

Do you want to be one of the 8, or one of the lucky 2? Click To Tweet

As ever, there is a spectrum of running injuries and associated pain. At one end you have severe, full-blown injuries, we’ll name that the red zone, which includes stress fractures that require time off.
The other end, where you’re in top form, we’ll call the green zone.
Mild, transient aches that bug you one day and disappear the next sit closer to the green end. However, the most common place for runners is the yellow zone. That point where you are not 100% pain free, but nor are you fully injured.
Your ability to stay in the green zone depends largely on how you react to that first stab of pain. A little bit of prevention – a little rest, or reduction in training mileage/intensity, along with some soft tissue treatment, can prevent a longer period of enforced time off later.
Developing a proactive long-term injury-prevention strategy, such as strength training, stretching, regular massage and foam-rolling can help keep you in the ‘green.’
It may seem boring to do daily stretches, or gym sessions, or having to pay for a regular massage treatment, but don’t forget the quote –

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

Edward Stanley

I would change that slightly to ‘ those with no time for bodily exercise and appropriate self care, will later find time for illness and injury’

Remember as well, that professional athletes spend a lot of time looking after their bodies, with physio, massage, yoga, stretching, cross training etc. Your body is the same as theirs, whether you run 10k, marathons, or elite races, you are using the same muscles. You need the self care too.

Click here for more information and exercise leaflets for injury prevention at this link.

running information download

So, What Causes Running Injuries?

Well, the obvious answer is running!
Research has stated that “running practice is a necessary cause for RRI (Running Related Injury) and, in fact, the only necessary cause.”
With running being the key risk factor for running injuries what other factors influence risk?
In the past a lot of emphasis was placed on factors like one leg being a bit shorter, having flat feet, or a very high arch, being knock kneed or bow legged. Then there was focus on external factors such as having the right running shoes, which usually means stability shoes or anti-pronation shoes and whether people were stretching properly.

However, recent studies have shown there is no one specific risk factor that has a direct relationship with injury. The usual advice of warming up, using compression garments, and therapies such as acupuncture and massage have shown evidence in reducing injury rates but what works for one person might not for another so it is all a little fuzzy.

avoid running injuries

There is however one specific factor that has been proven, and that is training error. Studies suggest that between 60-80% of running injuries are due to such issues. Runners become injured when they exceed their tissues capacity to tolerate load. Tissues such as ligaments, tendons and cartilage, are particularly at risk because they adapt more slowly than muscles to increased mechanical load. 

Again, individuals will have different tolerances to load. The main factors that play a part in this are –

  • Having a Body Mass Index (BMI ) of greater than 25
  • A history of previous injury, especially in the last 12 months.

So those are the two main issues that contribute to reducing the amount of running your body can manage, on the other hand, strength and conditioning will help to increase it. There is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of strength training to reduce injury risk and improve performance. Often runners focus so much on their PB and running stats, and how many kudos they have on Strava, they forget to look after their whole body with cross training and strength work.

Pushing too hard too fast, not allowing recovery and not cross training will all play a part in injury occurrence. Injury prevention is really a ‘mirror image’ of the causes of an injury. So, if you understand the primary reasons for getting injured then you are heading in the right direction to staying healthy this running season. You can find out more on injury prevention, with recommended exercise leaflets, at this link.

avoid running injuries

You can download a series of prevention and treatment guides for the 6 most common running injuries here

What are The Most Common Injuries to be Aware of?

Muscles and tendons are continuously stressed and repaired on a daily basis, as a result of both ‘normal’ functional activities and sport. Any ‘overuse’ type injury occurs when a specific tissue fails to repair in the time available, so has microscopic injuries in the fibres which then develops over time into a true injury. This means that the first time you are aware of a problem i.e. feeling sore or stiff, is not necessarily when it all began. This is true for sports injuries, and ‘RSI” which is usually associated with office workers. It’s all tissue injury due to over use.

The most common injury is ‘runners knee’ which accounts for over 40% of running injuries. This is followed closely by plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinopathy and then ITB (iliotibial band syndrome), shin splints and hamstring strain. Generally, all of these need complete rest or at least a reduction in training. Alongside that, soft tissue work such as a sports massage to promote tissue healing and mobility. Although these are overuse injuries, more often than not, there is an underlying muscle weakness and/or flexibility issue that needs to be addressed with specific rehabilitation exercises.

Follow this link to find more specific information about each of the most common running injuries with specific rehabilitation leaflets for you to use.

avoid running injuries

You can find our prevention and treatment guides for the following running injuries at this link: Injury leaflets

  • Shin splints)
  • Runner’s knee
  • Achilles tendinopathy
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Hamstring strains
  • Iliotibial band syndrome

I’ve also talked previously about Plantar fasciitis, and general injury avoidance on other blogs

These leaflets give good guidance on these issues, but ideally sufferers will be able to get individual advice and treatments.

If you do start to feel something is not quite right, it is best to start attending to it at the first ‘niggle’ rather than wait until it is a full blown problem.

If you are in the Edinburgh or Fife area, get in touch today to book your appointment to help keep you running injury free!