Getting injured from running is no fun. But what can you do to prevent running injuries?
While injuries are common among runners, the good news is that for many of them, injury prevention is possible.
In this article, we are going to go through:
- The 8 most common running injuries- their causes and how we can treat and prevent them
- And our 10 top injury prevention tips for staying injury free for good
Ready to become an unbreakable running machine!?
How Common Are Running Injuries?
Short answer: very common!
According to Yale Medicine, a staggering 50 per cent of regular runners get injured each year. In a 2015 systematic review of studies, they researched the most common areas of injury among runners. Here are the most common problem areas and the percentage of runners who suffer from them per year:
- Knees: 7.2 to 50%
- Lower legs: 9.0 to 32.2%
- Upper legs: 3.4 to 38.1%
- Feet: 5.7 to 39.3%
- Ankles: 3.9 to 16.6%
- Hips, pelvis, or groins: 3.3 to 11.5%
- Lower back: 5.3 to 19.1%
8 Most Common Running Injuries
Running injuries vary extensively, and even within each of the below running injuries, each runner’s case is individual. However, the following are 8 of the most frequently seen running injuries around.
1. Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Syndrome)
Runner’s knee is a very common overuse injury and is a general term for knee pain located in the front of the knee or around the kneecap.
Runner’s knee is often associated with a weakness or imbalance in a runner’s hips or in the muscles around the knee. Addressing these weaknesses is key to recovering and steering clear of future knee problems. It can also be a result of IT band syndrome.
Achilles tendinitis occurs when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed and sore.
This running injury often comes as a result of a runner stepping up their training load (mileage or intensity) too fast and too soon.
3. IT Band Syndrome (Illiotibial Band Syndrome)
The iliotibial band, or IT band, is the band of muscle and tissues that runs along the outside of your upper leg, connecting your hip to your knee. IT band syndrome is an overuse injury that causes a runner’s IT band to become inflamed or tight.
It is common for runners who suffer from IT band syndrome to develop runner’s knee, as it destabilises the knee.
4. Shin Splints
Shin splints are an injury of the front or inner part of your calves- or your shins. Shin splints are an overuse injury and can come about as a result of increasing your training load too quickly.
5. Hamstring Injuries
Hamstring injuries can be caused by tired or weak hamstrings. They are often caused by repetitive small tears in the hamstring.
If your hamstrings are weak, consider incorporating strength training into your schedule.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common running foot injuries. It is caused by the degradation of irritation of the fascia, or the thick layer of tissue, on the sole of your foot.
Plantar fasciitis has a number of root causes, from lack of mobility in the big toe, to tightness and lack of flexibility in the calf muscles. A focus on mobility training can be a great injury prevention technique for plantar fasciitis.
7. Stress Fractures
A stress fracture is a serious impact-related running injury. It is when a hairline crack forms in the bone and, for runners, is commonly associated with the upper foot bones, the heels, and the lower leg bones.
Stress fractures can be prevented by correcting your running form, increasing weekly mileage and intensity gradually, eating enough, and wearing appropriate running shoes.
If you suspect you have a stress fracture- go and see a medical professional!
8. Ankle Strain
Ankle strains are caused by overstretching the tendons and ligaments in your ankle. This commonly occurs if a runner twists or rolls their ankle whilst running.
Because twisting and rolling your ankle is often a symptom of ankle weakness, you can prevent ankle strains by strengthening the muscles around your ankles.
9 tips for running injury prevention
Incorporate the following 9 injury prevention tips into your lifestyle and you’ll be in a good position to ward off running injuries.
1. Avoid Overtraining
Overtraining is a common root cause of running injuries. At a glance, overtraining is when your body can’t keep up with the physical demands that you are placing on it. Among others, symptoms of overtraining include:
- A high resting heart rate
- Fatigue and always feeling tired
- Trouble focusing
- Finding it hard to sleep
You can prevent overtraining by increasing your weekly mileage gradually and making sure that you are eating, sleeping, and hydrating enough to keep up with the demands of your training.
For a deep dive into overtraining take a look at the following article:
2. Correct Your Running Form
Having proper running form can massively reduce your risk of running injuries as in many cases it allows you to reduce the impact caused by each step by working with the body’s innate suspension systems to absorb running impact correctly.
Curious about how to properly correct your running form? Check out the following articles:
3. Get Your Shoes Fitted Professionally
Having the right running shoes for your body and the type of running you do is key for injury prevention.
Avoid being swayed by the crowd when it comes to choosing the perfect shoe for you. What works best for elite marathon runners might not suit your foot shape or your requirements.
The best way to choose your running shoe is to go to a specialist. You’ll find any good running shoe shop will allow you to trial various running shoes and advise you on what you need to be looking for. Some shoe shops may even analyse your gait.
But the number one rule for running shoes: They should be comfortable!
For a complete guide to running shoes, check out this article:
4. Warm Up Before You Train
We all know we should be doing it!
Warming up properly before training is a good way to prevent muscle-related injuries. Warming up with a dynamic stretching routine allows your body to move more naturally as you run, and will prime your ankles, knees, and hips for action.
Top tip: if you’re going on a long, slow run, you can warm up for running by running! Just start off nice and slow to let your body warm up.
For a complete guide to warming up for runners, check out this article:
5. Eat Plenty Of Nourishing Food
When you’re training, it is important not to neglect your nutrition. Providing our body with the nutrients and hydration it needs to bounce back for our next training session is key to avoiding injury.
In fact, recent research has suggested that undereating could be interchangeable with overtraining. With many of the same symptoms, it could be that overtraining is simply a symptom of undereating.
Either way, it is important to eat well as a runner. Fill your plate with whole foods, eat three meals a day plus snacks, and focus on getting a form of good quality protein into every meal.
6. Gradually Increase Your Training Load
As we’ve seen above, a common reason behind running injuries is when runners up their training load too fast and too soon.
The 10% rule can be a good guide for avoiding training load-related injuries. It states that every week you should only increase your training by 10% compared to the week before.
Although it is just a guide, the 10% rule allows for your body to recover and adapt to keep up with the demands of your training without risking overuse injuries.
7. Sleep Eight Hours A Night
Sleeping properly allows your body to recover well in time for your next training session. Not sleeping properly puts you at risk of overtraining syndrome.
As a rule of thumb, you should be sleeping between 7 and 9 hours per night, but some athletes may need more.
For a comprehensive guide, check out this article on sleep:
8. Incorporate Strength Training
Possibly the best injury prevention tip out there for runners- strength train!
Strength training strengthens the runner’s muscles and connective tissues which can help to stabilise the joints and thus reduce the risk of not only muscle injuries, but joint injuries too.
For a guide on strength training for runners check out:
9. Incorporate Mobility Training
Incorporating mobility training into your daily routine can go a long way when it comes to injury prevention. This is because not having proper mobility means that as you run you aren’t able to access your joints full range of motion and therefore you won’t be as efficient a runner, leading to injuries.
The good news is that mobility training can take as little as 10 minutes a day to nail and there are plenty of free follow-along mobility routines for runners out there, like this one:
What To Do If You are injured
This advice is all well and good, but what if you’re reading this and you’re already injured? First things first: back off your training!
Before you understand the true nature of your injury, it’s best to reign in your training load so as not to risk doing further damage to your injury.
Then, it is generally recommended you seek the advice of a medical professional in the form of:
- A specialised running physiotherapist
- A sports physician
- Your doctor