Running And Its Risks

Whether you’re a light jogger or a competitive racer, injuries threaten to derail your stride. But proper treatment can get you back on track.


You don’t need a ball, a net or a special field to take up running—just lace up a pair of sneakers and go! But as simple as the sport is, running isn’t always easy on the body. Everyone, from professional marathoners and Olympic sprinters to weekend warriors and summer 5K participants, is susceptible to the same aches and pains.

The important thing is to treat your body well and “listen” to it. It’s one thing to battle through routine, exertion-based soreness, which many pro and beginner athletes do. “Ignoring pain is something you shouldn’t do,” the Mayo Clinic stresses. “You could be prolonging recovery or—even worse—creating a permanent injury.”

Below are five injuries to which runners are susceptible and suggestions for immediate treatment. The clinic recommends consulting your physician or physical therapist to rule out any severe injuries.

Runner’s knee. In this injury, the kneecap is out of alignment. Common symptoms include a dull pain around the knee and even a clicking sound in the joint, especially when you’re consistently using stairs, squatting or sitting with a bent knee for a long period of time. High-stress exercise and overuse of the joint are typical causes, making runners good candidates for the ailment (though despite its name they have no monopoly on it).

Treat it: Rest is imperative to allow the joint to recover; avoid things that make it hurt, such as running, squatting and standing for long periods of time. Icing the knee will ease the pain, and, when you’ve recovered, stretching and strengthening quadriceps muscles can help prevent future injuries.

Achilles tendinitis. When your Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone, becomes inflamed, you may experience mild achiness above the heel and in the back of the leg. Achilles tendinitis can be caused by prolonged running or stair climbing or a sudden increase in workout intensity.

Treat it: Employ the R.I.C.E. technique (rest, ice, compression and elevation). You may need to avoid exercise for several days or switch to an activity that doesn’t strain the Achilles tendon, such as swimming, the Mayo Clinic advises. If there’s too much pain, consult your physical therapist or a physician so you don’t do further damage.

Shin splints. These sharp pains in the front of the lower leg along the tibia are often the result of a quick, dramatic change in workout. If your body isn’t properly trained or prepared, an increase in miles run or a spike in frequency can cause shin splits. People with flat feet develop shin splits more regularly than others.

Treat them: Ice your shins for 20 minutes at a time, about five to six times a day, to keep swelling down. Rest is the other important treatment, Mayo Clinic says, but you don’t have to stop all activity. Biking and swimming will keep your cardiovascular system going while you’re taking a break from running.

Plantar fasciitis. In this condition the plantar fascia, the band of tissue in the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toe, becomes inflamed. If you experience sharp, almost stabbing heel pain as soon as you step out of bed in the morning—particularly if you have tight calf muscles or a high arch or have just started running—you may have it.

Treat it: Depending on its severity, a full recovery from this injury may take several months. Immediate treatment includes icing and rest, while using shoe inserts or switching to more supportive footwear can help as well. Stretching your fascia and Achilles can strengthen leg muscles and make your ankle and heel more stable. One move from the Mayo Clinic: With one hand holding your ankle and the other holding your toes, gently pull your toes backward until you feel a stretch in the bottom of your foot.

Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome. Pain on the outside of the knee could be caused by a swollen IT band, the tendon that extends from the pelvic bone to the shinbone. Discomfort occurs when the connective tissue tightens and rubs against the thighbone. Long-distance runners, especially those who train regularly, are prone to this injury.

Treat it: Allow the IT band to heal with proper rest; engage only in low-impact activities such as swimming. Use a foam roller to massage and loosen a tight IT band, but only use it as directed if the tendon is already irritated. Stretching also helps. Try this stretch from the Mayo Clinic: Lie on your back with your knees bent; lift your right leg over your left knee, hooking your right ankle around your left knee; then use your right leg to pull the left leg down to the right and hold it for 30 seconds. Repeat the process for the other leg.

Which Shoe Is For You?

A runner needs only a few pieces of equipment, and proper running sneakers are key. Understanding your gait—the manner of your stride—can help you determine which pair of shoes is best (don’t buy a pair based on color alone!) and help you avoid injuries. If you have…

Flat feet: You’re an overpronator, meaning your feet roll too far inward while running. Sneakers classified for “support” and made with built-in guiderails can help correct this.

High arch: You’re a supinator, a person whose feet roll too far outward while in motion. Look for “neutral” shoes to keep your feet in place while running.

Wide feet: Invest in a pair of sneakers specially made for greater widths.

By Darius Amos

Categories: Bergen Health & Life, Homepage Features