Common Runner's Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Oct 01, 2023
Common Runner's Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Discover the most common injuries runners face and how to prevent them so you can stay safe, active, and passionate about your running journey.

Whether you're training for your first 5k or you pound the pavement for a daily run, running can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience. However, runners are at risk for several common injuries.

As a foot and ankle specialist aRenew Foot & Ankle, LLC, in Grand Rapids and Bigfork, Minnesota, double board-certified podiatrist Dr. Eric Gilbertson, DPM, FACFAS, often sees patients who are avid runners experiencing a range of injuries. From sports medicine to chronic foot pain, Dr. Gilbertson treats all conditions related to the foot and ankle.

Here are the most common runner’s injuries and how you can prevent them: 

1. Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the band of tissue (plantar fascia) that connects the heel bone to the toes. It can cause heel pain and discomfort, often most noticeable when you first wake up and put weight on your feet in the morning.

Tips for preventing plantar fasciitis

To reduce your risk of developing plantar fasciitis, try the following tips:

  • Stretch your Achilles tendon and calves daily
  • Wear supportive shoes with cushioning
  • Avoid running on hard surfaces for extended periods

2. Achilles tendinitis

The Achilles tendon connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. When you run frequently or otherwise overuse your Achilles tendon, you may end up with pain and swelling in your heel from Achilles tendinitis. 

Tips for preventing Achilles tendinitis

To reduce your risk of developing Achilles tendinitis, try the following tips:

  • Incorporate calf muscle strength training exercises
  • Increase activity levels gradually 
  • Wear proper footwear that provides heel support

3. Stress fractures

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in bone, often occurring in the feet or lower legs due to repetitive force or overtraining. They can be painful and may require several weeks to heal.

Tips for preventing stress fractures

To reduce your risk of developing stress fractures, try the following tips:

  • Increase your running mileage and intensity gradually
  • Include rest days in your training schedule.
  • Ensure adequate calcium and vitamin D intake to maintain bone health

4. Shin splints

Medically known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints cause pain along the shinbone. Shin splits typically result from sudden changes in physical activity.

Tips for preventing shin splints

To reduce your risk of developing shin splints, try the following tips:

  • Wear shoes with proper cushioning and support
  • Strengthen calf and shin muscles
  • Avoid running on hard surfaces without proper footwear

5. Ankle sprains

While not unique to runners, sprained ankles frequently occur when the foot twists or rolls inward. Sprained ankles cause symptoms ranging from mild pain and swelling to more severe cases that hinder mobility.

Tips for preventing ankle sprains

To reduce your risk of developing a sprained ankle, try the following tips:

  • Perform ankle strengthening exercises regularly, like heel raises and resistance band movements
  • Wear properly fitting shoes with adequate ankle support
  • Watch your step on uneven surfaces

Injury prevention is key

Every runner is unique, and while some might be more prone to injuries due to anatomy or gait, you can prevent many injuries with the right precautions. 

Warm up and cool down

 A 5-10 minute warmup followed by stretching can increase blood flow to muscles and reduce the risk of injury.

Listen to your body

Pain is a warning sign. If you experience discomfort beyond usual muscle fatigue, it's essential to rest and assess the issue. Don't push through severe pain.

Replace worn-out shoes

On average, running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles, depending on weight and running style.

If you experience a runner’s injury or face persistent issues, call the office or schedule an appointment online.