They say that prevention is better than cure, and this is especially true when it comes to running injuries. If you can understand the signs of an injury before it fully develops, you’ll be able to adapt your training to make sure you stay pain-free. Find out how to tell if you're developing a running injury with drills to try if you do notice any of the signs, with expert advice from Lewis Moses, professional athlete and founder of New Levels Coaching.
Running Injuries Associated With Foot Pain
One of the most common running injuries that causes pain in the foot is plantar fasciitis. Lewis explains what to look out for if you think you could be developing it. “The obvious sign for plantar fasciitis is a pain in the foot or the heel. Often people describe the initial feeling as if they have a stone stuck in their shoe, when in fact there isn’t anything there. The pain is often worse first thing in the morning, especially when stepping out of bed, but it can sometimes get better during running, although this isn’t always the case. The pain can also be worse after sitting for long periods of time, or when the body is cold.”
If you start to feel a niggle in your foot, it’s important not to let it become full-blown plantar fasciitis, as this could mean you need to halt your training and stop running until it heals. Lewis explains, “Runners often neglect foot conditioning, but this can be a great way to strengthen the feet. If you think about how much we use our feet, we should give them the care and attention they need. Barefoot exercises are great for preventing foot-related injuries and they are also very easy to do. You should do them on a soft surface, such as carpet.”
Training Drills To Prevent Plantar Fasciitis
- Tip toe walks: walk on your tiptoes for 10 metres
- Toe scrunches: keep the legs straight, knees locked out, and pull yourself forward by scrunching the toes. Almost as though your toes are grabbing the surface underneath the feet.
- Heel to toe walks: slowly and mindfully walk through the full range of motion from the heel and then up on to the tip toes, whilst walking forward for 10m.
Lewis advises why it’s important to pay attention to niggles and foot pain as soon as it develops. “If you develop plantar fasciitis, it’s a good idea to look at the cause of the issue and not just the problem. Seek advice from a physio, as it might be that there is a weakness somewhere else that is causing the foot to overwork. This will mean other areas may need to be strengthened. In terms of rehab for the area itself, self-massage and rolling a ball through the area can help to relieve the pain long term, but it can be uncomfortable to do.”
If you start to develop pain in one foot, it’s likely that this will cause an imbalance when you run. The INCUS NOVA measures and analyses your left/right balance as you run, so you can use this metric to catch the development of an injury like this before it becomes too much of a problem.
Running Injuries Associated With Ankle Pain
If you feel pain in your ankle as you run, this could be a sign of Achilles tendinitis. Lewis shares some of the signs and symptoms to look out for. “One of the most common signs of achilles tendonitis or achilles tendinopathy is pain in your heel, which can feel sharp and sore to touch. You may also have an aching feeling or stiffness in your tendon and this will often feel worse first thing in the morning or if you've been resting for a while. You may also notice swelling, inflammation or redness at the back of your ankle.”
If you have pain in one or both of your ankles when you run, this could affect your body angles. The INCUS NOVA measures three planes of movement when you run and gives a score to let you know if you are running efficiently. If this score is low, it could be a sign of a running injury like Achilles tendinitis, giving you warning that it’s time to check out what’s going on and adapt your training.
Training Drills To Prevent Achilles Tendinitis
Lewis explains that calf strengthening is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of achilles tendonitis and that if performed correctly, plyometric exercises can help runners develop the ability to use the stored energy we get from the achilles tendon.
“Simple single leg calf raises off a step will help to strengthen the calf muscles and don’t be afraid to add weight safely to this exercise. Eccentric calf loading can also be useful, with exercises such as double leg calf raise and single leg calf lower, off a step. Again, you should safely build up the weight of this exercise, to help improve the strength of the area and to get the adaptations the achilles tendon needs.”
“Plyometrics should always be added safely and a great place to start is with small single leg hops, with a quick reaction of the ground. Try not to overdo this; focus on a strong mid-foot contact and a good reaction off the ground. If you have never done plyometrics before, it would be a good idea to start with double leg hops and progress to single leg hops when you feel comfortable. If you already include single leg hops, then drills such as pogos are a great exercise to add into your plan.”
Running Injuries Associated With Knee Pain
Knee pain is surprisingly common among runners, with research showing that pain at the front of the knee often develops in beginners, competitive runners, and long-distance runners. Lewis explains how to tell if you might be developing Runner’s Knee. “When a runner develops pain in and around the kneecap or even just beneath the knee, this could be a sign of Runner’s Knee. Some runners also experience a kind of flicking sensation, which might sound like popping or clicking around the knee area. The pain can be worse after long periods of sitting down.”
If your cadence is too low when running, this can put extra strain on the knees which could cause an injury like this. The INCUS NOVA measures and tracks your cadence, so making sure this stays around the 180 mark is a good way to prevent Runner’s Knee from developing. Another impact that can put extra pressure on the knees is how high you bounce when you run. If your vertical oscillation is too high, this could put you at risk of developing this sort of injury. The INCUS NOVA measures a unique metric called Vertical Ratio which gives a percentage score based on your vertical oscillation in relation to your stride length.
Training Drills To Prevent Runner’s Knee
Lewis explains the root cause of this running injury and how the following drills and exercises will help to prevent it. “Runner’s Knee can often develop due to the IT Band becoming compressed from around the hip and glute area. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to keep these areas strong and mobile.”
- Clams with a resistance band around the knees. This is a great way to strengthen the gluteus medius
- A seated internal rotation mobility exercise is a great way to keep the hips mobile. You can do this by sitting down, placing your hands behind you and feet out in front quite wide. You then drop the knee in and down towards the ground.
- The single leg squat is a great way to work on control and strength on a single leg, which will strengthen down the hip/knee/ankle chain.
About the author: Alex Parren is a Freelance Health & Fitness writer as well as a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist.