If you’re a keen athlete, chances are you’ve suffered from an injury throughout your training at one time or another. Understanding how they’re caused and taking steps to mitigate your risk could be a gamechanger and allow you to perform better when it really counts.
We get the expert insight on running injuries from Mike James, a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist better known as “The Endurance Physio”. Mike holds an MSc in both Physiotherapy and Sports and Exercise Science, as well as bachelor degrees in Sports Rehabilitation, Strength & Conditioning, and Sports Science.
- What are the most common injuries for runners?
- What causes running injuries?
- Is it okay to run with a running injury?
- How do you tell if a running injury is serious?
- How to prevent running injuries?
- How to use INCUS metrics to protect against running injuries?
What are the most common injuries for runners?
If you’re reading this because you’re currently injured, you’re not alone. Some studies have found that anywhere between 11-85% of novice runners will get injured, depending on injury definition. Mike advises, “What’s important to note is that most of the time it's nothing serious and you’ll be back running in a relatively brief period of time. In fact, you may not need to stop running - simply modifying training can be highly effective at addressing symptoms.”
In Mike’s experience, he has found that, “The majority of injuries that affect runners are: lower limb tendinopathies, plantar fasciopathy, bone stress injury, knee pain, and ITB issues.”
The key takeaway from this is that getting a running injury isn’t the end of the world, and running injuries can affect almost any part of the lower body from the hips and legs to the feet and ankles.
What causes running injuries?
According to Mike, there are numerous risk factors that can lead to a running injury. “However, we tend to see trends in novice runners and those returning from a long time off being the prevalent population that seem to get injured.” So, if you’ve taken a break from running or you’re new to the sport, you need to be particularly careful with your training.
Most runners will have heard of the saying “too much too soon” and this can be one of the biggest risk areas for getting injured. Mike explains, “Many running injuries are due to errors in training load; doing too much, too hard, too soon without appropriate progression, recovery, and time to adapt. Injuries can also be caused by deficits in tissue capacity to tolerate the training plan or load.”
When it comes to new runners, seeing quick results and then being hungry for more can be one reason why they overdo it and end up getting injured. It’s important to take your time and increase your mileage by no more than 10% each week.
A 2015 systematic review looked at several studies on risk factors for injuries in runners. The review found that there are many circumstances that can increase your risk of developing running injuries, including:
- Having participated in a marathon the previous year
- Running on a concrete surface
- Wearing running shoes that are over 4 months old
- Having less than 2 years running experience
- Having a weekly running distance greater than 64km ( ~40 miles)
Is it OK to run with an injury?
If there’s one thing all runners can agree upon, it’s that they never feel more motivated and eager to go for a run than when they’re injured and should be resting. Depending on the severity of the injury and the amount of pain it causes, many runners will continue to run instead of resting completely. But is this wise? Or will it prolong the recovery process?
Mike has the following advice, “My instinct is to always keep a runner running. For many, modifications to training coupled with advice and guidance around what to do if things get worse is enough.”
However, Mike goes on to say that, “For some, due to pain levels and/or diagnosis of a potentially more severe problem, then we may need them to stop running in the short term.”
According to Mike, where you are in your training plan and how close you are to a major race can influence the way you react to an injury. “There are certain times closer to an important event where we may manage the same injury differently than if it had happened in the off-season or in the early part of the training plan.”
How do you tell if a running injury is serious?
So, if you’re trying to decide whether your injury is serious enough to warrant a break from running, what are the tell-tale signs? Mike explains, “This is a tough one to answer, as everybody reacts differently.” With that said, Mike has a checklist of identifiers to help you decide if you should stop running until completely healed.
- If the pain or symptoms are making you alter the way you run
- If the pain is affecting how much, how often, how fast, or how far you run
- If your symptoms persist beyond an appropriate timescale when you're not running and at rest
- If your symptoms are inappropriately related to the activity that you have done
In these cases, Mike advises that you should stop running and seek the guidance of a healthcare professional or physiotherapist.
How to prevent running injuries
Of course, as with most things, prevention is better than cure. If you can lower your risk of developing an injury and complete a training block pain-free, you are far more likely to be a happier and more successful runner. But this may be easier said than done.
Mike says, “My biggest advice to any running population is simply to give your body time to adapt to the training load. Give your body adequate time to recover between sessions, and focus on the process of improving your running technique rather than the outcome or the goal.”
If you’re returning to running after a break or you’re looking to train for an event such as a marathon, Mike suggests working with a healthcare professional like a physio to help you prepare properly and reduce your risk of getting injured.
How to use INCUS metrics to prevent injury
One of the best and most effective ways to make sure you don’t get injured during training is by listening to your body and honing your technique. The INCUS CLOUD | RUN device has several intelligent features and metrics which could make a huge difference to your training and help you identify injury risks before they happen.
The left/right balance metric that INCUS can provide shows your cadence individually in real time so that you can identify if you have a muscular imbalance. Many running injuries are associated with a left/right imbalance, so identifying this and taking steps to improve can be key to staying injury-free. Not only that, it could help you to run faster too.
Stride length and cadence
Several studies have investigated the effects of stride length on risk of running injuries, and they all come to the same conclusion that a shorter stride and higher cadence puts less strain on the joints and therefore reduces risk of injury.
The INCUS run device can give you detailed insight and analysis on your stride length and cadence to help you work on improvements. This could be a huge benefit if you often suffer from overuse injuries.
About the author: Alex Parren is a Freelance Health & Fitness writer as well as a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist.