Yet as with any form of exercise, running comes with the potential for injury. Avid runners probably know this well. Below, you’ll find information on some of the most common problems runners face, along with information on preventing them.
The Most Common Foot and Ankle Running Injuries
This is the most common form of heel pain for adults generally and runners specifically. Repetitive overuse stretches and tears the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that connects the heel, arch, and toes. Pain is usually concentrated under and in front of the heel, and tends to be worst in the early morning or after (not necessarily during) a run.
The Achilles tendon, also known as the heel cord, attaches the powerful calf muscles to the heel bone. Overuse, tight calves, and bad shoes can lead to stretching, tearing, inflammation, or degeneration in the tendon fibers. Swelling and pain is usually located along the back of the leg, just above the heel.
This is a bit of a “catch-all” term that can refer to any pain or swelling along the shinbone, also known as the tibia. If your legs aren’t strong enough to handle the shocks and stresses of running, the muscles, tendons, and even bone tissue in the lower legs can become inflamed.
Softer tissues are your body’s first line of defense against impact forces. When they get tired due to overuse, they don’t absorb shocks as well, and a greater percentage of the force gets transferred directly to the bones. In time, small cracks called stress fractures can form in bone tissue, leading to soreness and pain.
Toenails can be constricted by running shoes that are too tight, or may slam repeatedly against the front of the shoe with each step you take. Over time, that can lead to bruising or even cuts and bleeding under the nail, giving it a black, blue, or purplish appearance. The toe will be sensitive, and the nail may or may not fall off.
A bad stumble off an uneven surface, unexpected curb, or other accident can bring you crashing down, twisting your ankle in the process.
Preventing Running Injuries
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent injury, but if you’re committed to making running a part of your life (and you should be!), there are many strategies and tactics you can use to limit your risk considerably. These include:
- Good shoes. We highly recommend you go to a specialty running store to pick up your shoes. The staff will often be able to help you get the perfect fit and pick out a style that will be appropriate for your foot shape and running gait. If you’re still unsure, stop by our office and we’ll help.
- Good form. There’s no “perfect” way to run—we’re all a little bit different. Learning proper techniques and running in a more biomechanically efficient manner will help you resist injuries (and allow you to run longer and faster, too).
- Take your time. If you’re a newbie, start small. Listen to your body, do a mix of jogging and walking, and set small goals. Furthermore, regardless of your running experience, never try to rapidly increase your mileage or intensity. Limit yourself to 10% increases each week to give your body the time it needs to adapt and adjust.
- Choose your terrain carefully. If you’re struggling with pain, see if you can choose routes on softer surfaces and flatter terrain with fewer hills.
- Build strength and flexibility. Strong and flexible muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the feet, ankles, and lower legs are more resistant to injury. Incorporate regular strength training and stretching exercises into your routine.
- Drink lots of water and eat right. A good rule of thumb is 8oz of water per 20 minutes of exercise.
- Warm up and cool down. Brief warm ups prepare your body for exercise, while cooling down afterward helps your body flush built-up toxins out of your system efficiently.
- Don’t let running be your ONLY physical activity. Specifically, you should cross-train in at least one other aerobic activity that doesn’t put as much stress on the feet. That way, you can work other muscles and give your legs a break.
Running Injury Care in Wichita
At the Kansas Foot Center, our goal is to keep you moving. If you develop any kind of foot, ankle, or leg pain or injury that’s keeping you from enjoying running or other activities, give us a call. We specialize in fixing your feet quickly and effectively, so you can go back to doing what you love. To set an appointment, dial (866) 222-5177.