What causes running injuries?
Running is one of the most popular sports in Australia. Its health benefits are backed up by studies. Each year, millions of people sign up for marathons, races, and other sports events. Some do it to keep fit or maintain their health. Others simply enjoy the competition. Just like any other sport, running has its drawbacks. Injuries are quite common among casual runners and elite athletes alike. Statistics show that up to 70 percent of those who run experience injuries during any 12-month period.
Considering these facts, it’s crucial to use proper running form and refrain your pushing yourself to extremes. Overuse injuries can keep you from resuming your workouts and affect joint health. Simple things, such as wearing appropriate footwear and training your leg muscles, can keep you safe.
Common Causes of Running Injuries:
- Sudden increase in training duration, speed, and distance.
- Running on uneven terrain
- Wearing poorly fitting shoes.
About 70 percent to 80 percent of all injuries are from the knee downward. Most of them are associated with overuse. The knees are affected in over half of all cases.
Overuse injuries result from repeated or prolonged stress to the tissues. Most runners experience joint pain and stiffness at the beginning, during, or after training. If you have these symptoms and keep running, pain can get worse. Common types of injuries include patellar tendinopathy, tibial stress syndrome, runner’s knee, and Achilles tendonitis. Fortunately, these problems can be prevented with proper precautions.
Other possible causes of running injuries are:
- Muscle imbalances
- Tight hamstrings and hip flexors
- Weak core muscles.
- Prolonged sitting
For instance, patellorfemoral pain syndrome typically occurs in those with weak quads. If you sit for hours each day, your quads and hamstrings lose their tone and tighten. Additionally, the glute muscles become weaker, which puts you at risk for hip injuries.
Overweight individuals are more likely to become injured when running. The excess weight puts stress on the joints, causing wear and tear. In the long run, it may lead to degenerative disorders. Runner’s knee is common in people with weak quadriceps muscles. Another cause of running injuries is reduced flexibility. Foot abnormities, such as overpronation of the feet, may result in injuries to the knees and shins. Studies indicate that a higher level of pronation is preferable during running. Excessive pronoation, on the other hand, is a major contributing factor to overuse injuries.
Researchers have also found a direct link between running injuries and hip mechanics. Inadequate hip stabilization appears to be a common risk factor. Women are more likely to face this issue, which explains their high rates of injury. You may also become injured due to poor running style. Common mistakes, such as improper arm movement, over striding, and bad posture, are often the culprit behind injuries.
Another possible cause is over-training. Too much running damages your joints and soft tissues, leading to stress fractures. The type of footwear worn during this activity shouldn’t be overlooked either. If you’re already injured, the podiatrist may recommend you custom-made orthotics or shoe inserts. These accessories can speed up healing from injuries caused by poor foot mechanics. For instance, plantar fasciitis symptoms tend to improve when the foot arch is tapped and supported.
“Most people wear inappropriate running footwear. Their shoes are either too old or simply don’t match their foot type.”
Running on uneven or hard surfaces only makes things worse. To stay safe, run on smooth, reasonably soft surfaces. Gradually increase your speed and distance, watch your form, and warm up before going for a run. Ideally, purchase shoes from a specialty running store and ask the salesperson to measure your feet.
What Can a Podiatrist Do?
If you’re struggling with running injuries or you want to prevent them, see a podiatrist. A qualified professional can diagnose, treat, and prevent abnormal conditions of the feet and legs. They will show you what type of footwear to wear, how to run safely, and how to recover faster from injury. Podiatrists can also recommend you custom-fit orthotics if necessary.
These healthcare professionals can assist a wide range of conditions:
- Reducing heel pain, arch pain and Plantar Fasciitis
- Reducing bunion pain
- Treating claw toes
- Treating Metatarsalgia
- Treating ingrown toenails including wedge resections (toenail surgery)
- Treating shin splints
- Reducing calf, Achilles and knee pain
- Monitoring diabetic feet
- Treating corns and callous
They can diagnose and fix abnormal walking patterns, hyperpronation, flat feet calluses, heel pain, and other common problems. Seeing a podiatrist is a must in case you’re dealing with running injuries. They can help determine what type of injury you have and then come up with a treatment plan. Podiatrists can also treat lower back pain, hip pain, postural imbalances, and stress fractures.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be prescribed foot manipulation, orthotic devices, or specific exercises that help strengthen weak muscles. Even if your feet are healthy, you should consider seeing a podiatrist. They can check the way you walk, do basic tests, and help you figure out if you’re wearing the right shoes. You will also learn more about foot structure and what steps are needed to avoid injury.
The type of treatment recommended for running injuries depends on your symptoms and severity of pain. For example, if you have Achilles tendonitis, a podiatrist may prescribe heel lifts, laser therapy, strengthening or stretching programs. Flat foot is usually treated with custom orthotics. Also, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation before starting a running program. The podiatrist will check your feet for any potential problems and recommend appropriate footwear.
See a professional if you have diabetes, heel or joint pain, ingrown toenails, strains, sprains, and other conditions that may affect your feet. The services provided by podiatrists are typically covered by private insurance, so go ahead and book an appointment!
Jarrad Matheson is the Senior Podiatrist and Head of Rehab & Fitness at Upwell Health Collective – Camberwell.