The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Common Running Injuries: Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Posted by on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013


Marathon running has surged in popularity over the past two decades. More and more amateur runners are looking at the marathon as the gold standard of physical fitness and embrace the challenge to push themselves harder to reach this milestone. Our very own Dr. Geldwert is an avid runner who has served as the medical director for major race events such as the Hamptons Marathon and the NYC Triathlon. Unfortunately, he has seen many injuries as a result of rigorous training without taking the right precautions. The Stanford Department of Orthopedic Surgery reports that the yearly incidence rates for injury can be as high as 90% in those training for marathons.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Stanford researchers said that “the most common injury by far was to the knee,” with patellofemoral pain syndrome cited specifically. This type of pain occurs at the front of the knee, especially when going up or down stairs, when sitting for long periods of time, or when kneeling and squatting. It’s usually an aching pain, but can also burn or jab at times. Some patients feel as though their knees are giving out on them. The pain results from a misalignment of the knee joint and a wearing down of cartilage.

Muscle Strain

“Runners often strain their lower leg and foot muscles during rapid movement,” says Dr. Steven Rosenberg DPM from Santa Monica, CA. These strains are actually the result of a partial or total tear of the muscle fibers. “Improper and inadequate warm-up and stretching are some of the contributing factors to this type of injury,” he explains. Fortunately, this type of injury typically heals itself within a few days and doesn’t warrant a trip to the doctor.

Shin Splints

Pain in the front of the lower leg along the shin bone can occur when a runner starts increasing distance or the number of consecutive days run too quickly. Often people with flat feet or overly high arches suffer from this type of injury, according to the Foot Health Network. Orthotics and shoes with better shock absorption are highly recommended, as is stretching, taking ibuprofen, decreasing activity for a week, and icing.

Plantar Fasciitis

Runners often suffer from small tears in the tissue that cause sharp heel pain known as plantar fasciitis. This pain is generally worse in the morning, which is why some sufferers buy special night splints that stretch the foot out during periods of inactivity. Recovery could take months. During this time, sufferers will need to stretch daily and cut running down to one or two days a week — or walk for a while.

Tips For Avoiding Running Injuries

  • Loyola University Medical Center researchers found that ill-fitting shoes contribute to many unnecessary injuries. Lead investigator Katherine Dux DPM sees 200 to 400 runners seeking treatment for blisters, heel pain, foot stress fractures, sprained ankles and toenail injuries. “Most of these injuries are related to improper shoes, socks or training,” she said.
  • Stanford scientists say it’s “important to be fully recovered from any and all injury or illness prior to run a marathon.” The less experienced runners — who are much more apt to injure themselves — should enter a graduated training program and avoid sudden increased in running load of intensity. They found spikes in injuries once runners went beyond 40 miles per week.
  • UK Guardian marathon blogger Sam Murphy has some practical tips for runners. First, “comfortable, easy running has a place in every runner’s  program,” he says. Furthermore, mileage should be increased by no more than 10% a week. Training consistently is important, as one cannot “pick up where he left off” after skipping a few weeks. Harder sessions should be followed by recovery days. Cross-training can improve performance as well. Warming up prior to running, stretching after running, and holding good posture are all important in preventing common running injuries. Replace shoes every 500 miles. Vary running surfaced. Lastly, “don’t ignore niggles.” Murphy defines “niggles” as those little aches and pains that could use an ice pack or a massage.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.