As the weather continues to warm up, many people will trade-in the treadmills for the trails, while others will begin running altogether. And for beginners and experienced runners alike, this raises some new potential injury risks. From the uneven ground, roots and rocks to much firmer paths and roadways, running outdoors can take its toll on our bodies. But as a Waterloo rehabilitation specialist, we’ve seen the most common running injuries firsthand and have the knowledge and expertise to treat them all so that you spend less time indoors this spring and summer and more time out on the trails. Continue reading below for a list of some of the most common running injuries as well as what causes them and how you (along with the help of a trained professional) can go about treating each one.

Runner’s Knee

Caused By: Runner’s knee can be caused by a few different things. It can be caused by a structural defect or by the way you walk and run, but most commonly, it’s caused by your foot rotating inwards and your knee outwards while running or walking. In most cases, if you’re experiencing pain in or around your knee while walking, running or sitting, it could be Runner’s Knee.

Treated With: A lot of the time Runner’s Knee will heal itself. And doing things like resting your knee, icing it and taking pain medication will aid this process and hopefully get you pain-free much sooner. With that being said, not all cases of Runner’s Knee are this simple. If the pain persists or even gets worse when sitting for long periods or immediately after a run, you should seek the advice and treatment of a trained Physiotherapist.

You may also want to look at investing in a pair of shoe insoles that are designed to stop your feet from rotating if you tend to suffer from Runner’s Knee regularly. Orthotics are also another option to help correct this problem.

Hamstring Strains

Caused By: Your hamstring makes up most of the back of your thigh and is responsible for much of your “get up and go” when running. Most often, injuries involving your hamstrings have to do with your flexibility or strength. Everything from not stretching before a run or practicing stretching between runs to not warming up before a run and trying to run for too long or too hard can all cause hamstring strains.

Treated With: Hamstring strains tend to take a lot of time to heal and can be easily re-injured if the proper treatment hasn’t been performed or if a runner tries to train too hard too soon. If you suffer a hamstring injury, it’s recommended that you schedule an appointment with a Physiotherapist immediately. What may seem like minor tightness in your hamstring can lead to much more pressing issues if not treated by a trained Physiotherapist.

Plantar Fasciitis

Caused By: Foot pain is the leading injury for runners. And at the top of the foot pain list is Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar Fasciitis is caused by small tears and inflammation in the foot— specifically the ligaments and tendons in the foot. These tears can often lead to foot pain that can be described as a dull ache or may even feel like the arch or bottom of your foot is bruised. This injury is most common in trail runners who run on uneven ground— placing localized pressure on specific parts of their foot as well as in runners who aren’t wearing the proper shoes or using the proper insoles. 

Treated With: Plantar Fasciitis is another injury that can sometimes be treated at home. These treatments include resting your feet, icing your feet as well as trying store-bought insoles for extra cushion. But if these things don’t seem to do the trick, you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your Physiotherapist and quite possibly ask about Orthotics. Your Physiotherapist will be able to provide Physiotherapy treatment for your feet, while the Orthotics will help keep Plantar fasciitis at bay in the future.

Shin Splints

Caused By: Last but not least is Shin Splints. In some cases, Shin Splints are caused merely by the fact that you are new to an activity and so your body has yet to adjust, but it can also be the result of improper footwear. When a runner (or any other patient) experiences shin splints, it means that the muscle, tendons and tissue surrounding the shin are overworked and have small tears in them. 

Treated With: In most cases, treating shin splints is as simple as resting until the pain has gone away. And once resuming exercise, you can eliminate the chance of shin splints returning by investing in a new or proper pair of running shoes. This provides additional cushioning and should help take the stress off your shins. If you find the pain disappears, but the tightness and achiness remain, you should look into scheduling an appointment at your rehabilitation/therapy clinic. Shin splints are often a minor injury, but in some cases, they require serious treatment and the expertise of a Physiotherapist or other health care professional to heal completely.

Tips for Preventing Injuries

Suffering an injury while running isn’t a guaranteed thing. With some proper preparation and technique, you can ensure your running season is problem-free and that you spend more time on your feet than on the couch. Below are just a few tips we have found useful when preventing injuries.

Invest in a Proper Pair of Shoes

Believe it or not, not all athletic shoes are equal. From cross-trainers to hikers and running shoes, they all offer unique benefits for a specific activity. For starters, if running is your main focus, then we recommend staying away from cross-trainers, hiking shoes and walking shoes. Cross-trainers are best suited for gym environments (lifting weights, etc.), while hiking shoes are best suited for, well, hiking and walking shoes for walking on tracks and other simple surfaces. When it comes to running shoes, they’re available in many different variations that are specially designed for different terrains. Trail running shoes will differ from track shoes, and so it’s important to know exactly where you’ll be running most often when selecting the right shoes for you.

Look Ahead

All too often we see runners who stare down at their feet rather than looking ahead to where they’re going. This can lead them to run into objects and other people, but it can also cause them to step awkwardly. When running, you want your head up, and you want to look as far ahead as possible. This will allow you to see and adjust for other people and objects in your path, but it will also help you spot rocks, roots, curbs or other obstacles on the ground that require planned foot placement to prevent injury.

Run at Your Pace

Running clubs and groups are great for meeting new people and getting out. And while we highly recommend them for anyone who finds they need a little extra motivation, it’s important to remember to run at your pace. Trying to run at a speed that is too fast for your ability can lead to injury. You’ll not only be more mentally and physically exhausted than usual, but it also reduces the amount of time you have to assess a trail, for instance. Running clubs and groups are by no means a race (unless you’ve entered a race) and so it’s important to pay attention to your body while running.

Familiarize Yourself with The Terrain

Trail running is a form of running that has been increasing in popularity. It trades in the tarmac or track for trails filled with roots, rocks, dirt and other obstacles. But if you’re planning on trying your foot at trail running, we suggest walking the trail first and familiarizing yourself with it. Unlike tracks and tarmac where there are no surprise obstacles, trails have a new twist every step of the way— many of which can cause injury. And even if you can’t walk the trail first, run at a slower pace than usual the first time through to give yourself lots of time to react to the changing terrain.

Those are just a handful of the most common running injuries that we see. And despite all the injuries we’ve listed above, running is a great way to improve your health and wellness while enjoying the outdoors and potentially meeting new people. There are plenty of local running groups and clubs that are always looking for new people to join them on their runs. If you decide to join one we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. And in the unfortunate event that you suffer a running injury or if you are currently suffering from a different injury (running-related or not), we encourage you to reach out to us. We’d be more than happy to help you schedule a consultation appointment and see what we can do to help you get back to doing the things you love.

Happy Running!