Running can be an amazing way to get fit and bust stress, but it doesn't come without a little risk. In fact, more than half of all runners injure themselves annually. The good news is that you don't have to be part of this statistic - many running injuries are preventable.
Prone to Plantar Fasciitis
This condition is hard to miss as you'll feel pain near your heel and across the bottom of your foot, particularly when you first get out of bed in the morning. Plantar fasciitis happens when your plantar fascia - a connective band of tissue that joins your forefoot and heel - is irritated or inflamed. People with high or low arches are more prone to this condition.
To prevent this when running, it is important to properly stretch your calf muscle before and after running and to wear quality running shoes with proper arch support. You are at a higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis if you suddenly increase your running distance, run on hard surfaces, or naturally have flat feet.
If you're struck with this pain, roll the sole of the affected foot over a frozen water bottle and stretch the calf of the affected foot three times each day. It is also best to wear your shoes inside as walking barefoot can delay the healing process.
The Ache of Achilles Tendinitis
When you have Achilles tendinitis, you'll have pain along the back of your leg, close to your heel. This is caused by inflammation of the Achilles tendon, and it's often due to calf muscles that are too tight.
You can help avoid this injury by doing eccentric heel lowering exercises. Simply rise up on the ball of your foot and slowly lower down over a pace of six counts, and repeat for 12 to 15 reps. Do three sets of this exercise twice a day on each leg. If you end up with this injury, stop running for a few weeks and do a low-impact activity instead.
Say Goodbye (Hopefully) to Shin Splints
Often felt at the start of a run, shin splints are pain on the outside or inside of your shins. It can be traced to inflammation of the tendons or muscles around the shinbone. New runners tend to be more vulnerable to this, so increase your distance slowly to avoid it.
Flat fleet is another culprit; speak to a podiatrist about your options if you have this condition, as they will be able to help you find suitable running shoes which counter it. If you are unlucky enough to experience this injury, try skipping your runs until you're free of pain, ice the affected area, and keep stretching those calves!
Don't Leave Room for Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB)
With ITB, you'll experience pain around the outside of your knee, and it can extend to the hip. This occurs when the tendon that runs from your hip to your knee is tight; this creates tension on the hip and knee joints that leads to swelling.
If this is happening to you, try icing the area and take a few weeks off, substituting some low-impact exercise until you're better. You can also prevent it by regularly rolling out the sides of your hip on a roller. This will break up the fibrous tissues created by minor injuries. You can also try adding hip-strengthening exercises to your regular workouts.
Hamstring Strain Woes
A hamstring strain will present itself along the back of your leg. It's usually caused by a minor tear or overstretch of at least one of the muscles in the back of your upper leg.
Prevent this by doing exercises to boost the strength in your hips and core. If you do end up with a strained hamstring, ice it and rest until you're recovered. If you keep running, you can make the condition worse and cause complications and a delayed recovery.
The Sting of Runner's Knee
Runner's knee makes itself known as a sharp pain when you descend. This is caused by underlying tendon strain or irritation of cartilage under your kneecap, which is linked to weak outer hip muscles.
To help prevent this, strengthen your hip muscles with clamshell exercises or left lifts that have you lying on your side. To help treat it, you can ice your knee for about 10 minutes after you run, cut your running distance and frequency in half, and alternate running days.
The Pins of Piriformis Syndrome
Combined numbness or tingling and pain in your gluteus maximus muscle, and down through the leg, is often piriformis syndrome. This is caused by the piriformis muscle pushing on your sciatic nerve.
Keep this condition away by staying away from uneven surfaces and adding hip abductor-boosting exercises to your workout routine. If you fall prey to piriformis syndrome, rest and stretch to get yourself on the road to recovery. Anti-inflammatory drugs and massages might also help, but if the symptoms worsen or won't let up, see your doctor.
Force-Related Stress Fractures
If your bones are subjected to more force than they can take, you can end up with stress fractures, which are tiny cracks in your bones. In runners, these are sometimes seen in the leg bones.
Wear the right shoes and do some cross training to avoid overuse of a particular area and prevent this type of fracture. If you suspect you have some, you should stop running immediately and see a doctor. You may need crutches or a special boot to help take the strain off of the pressured area. If a stress fracture doesn't heal correctly, it can cause long-term pain, so have yours treated promptly.
Side Stitches That Don't Leave you Laughing
If you've ever experienced a sharp pain on the side of your stomach, you've had exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP) - commonly known as a "stitch". This affects close to 70 percent of runners, as covered in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Experts believe this is caused by your diaphragm starting to spasm because of overwork, and poor posture may also contribute.
To help stave off side stitches, try to avoid overworking your body, taking deep and controlled breaths during exercise, and improve your posture with stretching. If you experience this pain, bend forward and tighten your core to help ease the pain. Breathing with pursed lips may also reduce it.