7 Common Running Injuries and How to Treat Them-min

7 Common Running Injuries and How to Treat Them

Learn the most common running injuries so you can know how to treat them, and how to avoid them.

Know the Running Injuries

You can see it.

You just know that you’re going to get your next PR at the next race.

You’ve been training for months.

You only have 3 weeks to go and your ahead of schedule. You are kicking butt….then you get injured. Now you’re out for several weeks, miss your race, and you’ve got to start back at square one.

I have fallen ail to my fair share of running injuries. Let me tell ya, it ain’t fun. It sucks. You’ve gotten into your rhythm or you’re at the best time you’ve seen in a long time and now you have to start all over again. It just sucks.

Knowing the most common running injuries can help you prevent them and treat them faster so you’re back at it quicker.

Related Posts:
How to Exercise with Kids
6 Stretches for Runners to Help Prevent Injury
9 Tips for Beginner Runners

Most Common Running Injuries

7 common running injuries-min

1. Runner’s Knee

What is it?

Runner’s knee is also known as Patellofemoral syndrome. It’s when the cartilage underneath the knee cap becomes irritated and painful due to friction from irregular tracking of the patella.

Some people may have pain in the front of the knee from a condition called Chondromalacia. In this problem, the underside of the knee cartilage wears down and frays. Cartilage is a rubbery tissue that cushions joints.

What’s the Cause?

It is caused by overuse (so running a lot), weak thigh muscles (quadriceps), or a problem with the way the kneecap moves. Improper footwear can also contribute to runner’s knee.

What are the Symptoms?

Pain in the front of the knee or under and around the knee cap. Pain while walking or running and going up and down stairs. Prolonged periods of kneeling can cause pain.

What’s the Treatment?

Rest. Lower your activity level. Avoid activities that cause it pain. A good warm up before running, and heating the knee 10 to 15 minutes before a run and icing it for 10 to 20 minutes afterwards.

Stretching and strengthening quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Make sure you are wearing proper running shoes and even look into getting an orthotics if your shoes aren’t helping. You can also get a knee sleeve that helps keep the patella from tracking.

Post: Ways to Stretch the calves, hamstrings, and quads

DonJoy is one of the best brands of braces. We use them in my sports medicine clinic. You can definitely try some of the cheaper ones. They will get the job done; They just may not last as long. Here is the patella stabilizing knee brace.

DonJoy Tru-Pull Lite Knee Support BraceLearn More

My husband and I have always found great results with Dr. Scholls inserts/orthotics. I would start by buying some already made in the store before trying to get custom inserts made. They can be pretty pricey, and sometimes the ones in the store will work just fine for you.

Dr. Scholl’s Heavy Duty SupportLearn More

2. IT Band Syndrome

What is it?

 Iliotibial band syndrome is when the iliotibial band (aka IT band) becomes inflamed. This is a band of fascia that runs down the outside of your thigh. It connects the side of your hip to the side of your knee.

What’s the Cause?

Overuse and tight muscles. When your IT band becomes tight it pulls on the knee and causes pain. Some people can also feel pain in their hip. Another cause could be that your pelvis is “off”. Your pelvis has shifted it out of place and therefore causing pain due to the muscles being pulled too tight or in the wrong directions.

What are the Symptoms?

Pain on the lateral side (outside) of the knee, especially when you run. Feels like a sharp, stabbing pain. Pain can also be on the outside of the hip.

What’s the Treatment?

Rest (sadly), If you catch it soon enough you might be able to keep running, if not, it could keep you out for a few weeks. Stretching of the quads, hamstrings, gluts and hip flexors, and Strengthening of the legs and core, Pelvis adjustment, and Massage. Incorporate a warm-up routine.

Stretches for the Quads, Hamstrings, Piriformis, Hip Flexors, and Gluts 

This is one of my common running injuries. I am constantly stretching because I fear this will come back. I also use the foam roller. It kills you and helps you at the same time. It’s a great self-massaging tool.

LuxFit Foam RollerLearn More on Amazon

3Plantar Fasciitis

What is it?

Plantar Fasciitis is pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia, the tissue at the bottom of your foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. The plantar fascia also supports the arch.

What’s the Cause?

Plantar fasciitis can be caused by overuse, running, shoes with little arch support, or other sports. It also may occur in people who are overweight or who have high arches or flat feet. You may get plantar fasciitis if you walk or stand for long periods, or have a tight Achilles tendon or calf muscles.

What are the Symptoms?

Pain in heel and bottom of foot especially when you step out of bed in the morning, on your feet all day, or while running.

What’s the Treatment?

Rest your feet often. Reduce your activity to a level that lets you avoid pain. If possible, do not run or walk on hard surfaces.

Buy shoes that provide good arch support.

Use heat before you run as part of your warm up.

Massage, an easy way to do this is by placing your foot on top of a tennis ball and rubbing it around. You can also do an Ice massage to help with pain or swelling.

You can do an ice massage with an ice cup. To make an ice cup, fill a paper cup with water and freeze it. Cut off the top of the cup until a half-inch of ice shows. Hold onto the remaining paper to use the cup. Rub the ice in small circles over the area for 5 to 7 minutes.

Wear a night splint. A night splint holds your foot so that the foot and ankle are at a 90-degree angle, giving a gentle stretch through the night. Stretch your calves. Wear shoes with good arch support, or get orthotics/inserts. Maintain a good weight.

My husband used this night splint for a few weeks and his plantar fasciitis improved drastically. There are several different kinds on the market. You just have to find the one that works best for you.

Plantar Fasciitis Night Splint
Learn More


4. Strain

What is it?

A strain happens when you overstretch, or pull, the muscle. This is most commonly seen in the quadriceps, hamstrings, or hip flexors, but really it can happen to any muscle.

The quadriceps (quads) are the big muscle runs down the front of your thigh. The hamstring is the muscle group behind the thigh and the hip flexors are the groin muscles.

What’s the Cause of this running injury?

A strain can happen when you overexert yourself during exercise or lift something too heavy and suddenly pull or overstretch the muscle. If your muscles are being overused and too tight, a strain can happen. It can also be caused by trauma to the muscle, or in an injury from an accident like whiplash.

What are the Symptoms?

You may feel pain and tenderness that’s worse when you move your injured leg. Your thigh may be swollen and bruised. If you have a bad strain, you may not be able to move your leg normally. You might have pain when you palpate or apply pressure to the muscle belly.

What is the Treatment?

Rest your injured leg. Avoid anything that causes pain. You might be able to still run on it after a few days depending on the severity of the strain. Ice for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with swelling.

You can wrap your muscle with an elastic bandage. Stretch and strengthening the injured muscle group once your pain and swelling have gone down. Gradually return back to running.

(Side Note: What’s great about running is that usually this is a gradual injury and can be caught early and treated so that you aren’t missing too much running. Keep in mind that returning too soon and too hard could cause a greater strain). A good warm up including heating for 10 to 15 minutes.

Stretches for the quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors

ThermaCare is an excellent product for warming up joints, muscles and aches. If something is bothering you all day, consider using a ThermaCare pack.

5. Achilles Tendonitis/Rupture

What is it?

Achilles tendonitis is when the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed and irritated.

An Achilles rupture is when the Achilles tendon tears completely. If this happens, you will need surgery and should see your doctor immediately. The Achilles is the tendon from the calf that attaches your calf muscle to your heel. You can also irritate the bursa underneath the Achilles tendon.

What’s the Cause of this running injury?

The tendinitis is caused by overuse and tightness. Achilles rupture is caused by a tight Achilles tendon, no warm up, or a sudden burst of movement involving the Achilles tendon.

What are the Symptoms?

Pain and possibly swelling in the Achilles tendon or calf muscle. Pain in the heel at the attachment spot.

What is the Treatment?

If it’s a rupture, you need to go to the ER or consult your doctor immediately. An Achilles tendinitis can be treated with rest. Stretching and strengthening of the calf muscles. A proper warm up. Heating 10 to 15 minutes before exercise. Ice 10 to 15 minutes after run. Any prolonged pain or pain that is debilitating, should be taken care of by a doctor.

Calf Muscle Stretches

6. Shin Splints

What is it?

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome, commonly known as Shin Splints, refers to pain along the shin bone or the Tibia bone in the lower leg.

What’s the Cause of this running injury?

Weak or tight anterior tibialis muscles. The constant pounding while running on hard surfaces. If untreated, shin splints can lead to stress fractures.

What are the Symptoms?

Pain or swelling in the anterior lower leg. Pain along the bone of the tibia. Pain can usually start gradually and worsen during exercise. When you aren’t running, you might not have any pain.

What is the Treatment?

Stretching and strengthening of the lower leg, especially the anterior tibialis muscle. Don’t run on concrete or hard surfaces. Make sure you’re running with proper running technique and have proper foot wear. Don’t start running more than you are able, gradually work up your running. Orthotics could also help. You could also try a compression sleeve, which can sometimes help.

Shin Splints Compression SleeveLearn More

7. Sciatica/Piriformis Syndrome

What is it?

The Piriformis muscle is a deep buttock muscle. One end of the muscle connects deep inside the pelvic area, and the other end attaches to the top of the thighbone.

This muscle can press on the sciatic nerve that runs from your spine down your leg, when it gets irritated or swollen. When this happens, you may have pain, numbness, and tingling in the buttock and down the back of your leg. This is called piriformis syndrome. The pain may get worse when you sit for a long time or climb stairs.

What’s the Cause of this running injury?

Tight piriformis and buttock muscles. This can also happen when the pelvis is all out of whack (misaligned). Overuse, prolonged walking or running. Don’t forget to stretch the buttocks!

Stretches for the Piriformis

What are the Symptoms?

Pain in the buttocks. Pain that runs from your butt cheek down your leg. Sharp, shooting pains down your leg. Tingling or numbness in legs or buttock area. It can also lead to low back pain.

What is the Treatment?

Rest, Stretching the piriformis muscle, glut and core strengthening, massage (another good time to use your foam roller), proper warm up and cool down.

I have had a few of these running injuries, so I always try to do my stretching. It helps a ton to prevent these common injuries. Another form of treatment is to take an anti-inflammatory medication, but you need to consult your doctor before starting any medication.

Happy Running!

Related: The 5 Best Stretches for Runners to prevent running injuries

Related: 9 Best tips for Beginner Runners

Related: A Runners Gift Guide: 17 Gifts for Runners

running injuries-min

Disclaimer: I am an Athletic Trainer, but I’m not your athletic trainer, or healthcare provider. Please don’t take this as your personal medical advice. Please consult your doctor before starting any treatment program, or if you have any questions or concerns about any injury.

18 thoughts on “7 Common Running Injuries and How to Treat Them”

  1. Hi Charlie, your post is informative as always 🙂 But somewhere I read that once you have an Achilles tendon injury, it takes time to recover ruptured Achilles tendon some people need several weeks usually 6 to 8 weeks and for athletes to return to sport it takes 4 to 12 months. So, it is my opinion that people should concern with their doctor or surgeon because running in a normal routine can also increase swelling around the tendon which interferes with healing

    1. Hi, thank you. I agree, if someone has an Achilles rupture, they should definitely consult their doctor. In the treatment paragraph I was speaking about Achilles tendinitis, and more in the beginning stages. I believe anyone should consult their doctor if they aren’t improving or are having too much pain. Thank you for pointing that out.

  2. Hey ya’ll,

    What a overwhelming post! On Your Website.

    This is so chock full of useful facts I can’t wait to dig deep and start watching the sources you’ve given me about.. It consumes me a lot of time in the chronometer but worth enough to say so.. Very ingenious.

  3. I absolutely love my compression stockings for shin splints, makes a big difference for me. I used to have pain every time I ran. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I found this in my search for something relating to this.

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