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The 6 Most Common Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them

By stephdorworth

August 10, 2021

common running injuries

Running Injuries

Running is a super popular sport because it can be done anywhere, anytime. No matter where you live in the world, you can step foot outside and just go. Approximately 1% of Americans run on an average day. So I can say with confidence that the majority of you running this article have tried running at some point in your life. Running injuries are super duper common!

Running has so many amazing benefits, as does any form of exercise, but one of the biggest downfalls is the high prevalence of injuries in runners.

*Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this website.  Never rely on information on this website in place of seeking professional medical advice.

common running injuries
common running injuries

Running Injuries are Common

If you’re currently a runner or you’ve ever gotten into running for a period of time, it’s likely you’ve experienced an injury from it at some point. Whether you were able to pinpoint the diagnosis or not, I’m sure you’ve had a pain here or there. 

Running injuries are in fact so common that they’ve coined the term - running related injuries (RRI)  to describe them.

To give you a better idea of just HOW common they are, let’s bring in the experts. By that I mean, let me share some statistics from research studies on RRI’s. Get ready to have your mind blown.

In a 2015 systematic review of 15 studies, they concluded people are at higher risk for RRI’s if they:

-are men

-are new runners (>2yr experience)

-have a previous injury

-running on concrete

-participating in a marathon

-re-starting running

-running distances >20mi/wk

-wearing running shoes >4mo

In a 2003 study, 844 runners were surveyed while in a 13-week running clinic and categorized as injured or uninjured based on a questionnaire they filled out. 

-knee injuries were the most common (32-36% of women and men)

-shin injuries were the second most common

-RRI’s were more common in people who ran on the road versus a trail, track, or treadmill

In a 2015 study, they found a one-year injury rate of:

-27% in novice runners

-32% in long distance runners

-52% in marathon runners

common running injuries

RRI’s are extremely common, right? Now you can see that the likelihood of you running and getting injured is high. About 1 in 3 of runners will get injured, especially new runners. So if you love running or have a goal of running, then it’s crucial you take precautionary measures to prevent injuries as best possible.

In this blog, I will cover two questions:

  1. What are the 6 most common running injuries?

  2. How can running injuries be prevented?

When you are more aware and knowledgeable of these potential injuries, you can better prevent them by taking action. Let’s get to it!

common running injuries

6 Most Common Running Injuries

According to this article, the most common running injuries are:

  1. Medial tibia stress syndrome

  2. Patellar tendonopathy

  3. Plantar fasciitis 

  4. Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome 

  5. Patellofemoral syndrome

  6. Stress fracture

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these injuries is.

Medial tibia stress syndrome

MTSS is also known as shin splints which is likely a term you’re familiar with. It’s a diffuse, spread out pain along the inner tibia (the large lower leg bone) due to some tiny, microfractures over time.

Patellar tendonopathy / tendonitis

As one of the top injuries in runners, I’ve written an entire blog about this injury that you can read here.

Plantar fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a degeneration of the fascia that spans the bottom of the feet from the heel to the toes. So in runners, it often presents as a heel pain at the bottom of the heel from striking the ground so much. 

Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome

The IT band is a thick, tendinous band that runs from the outer hip down to just below the outer knee. With running you’re constantly going from a straight leg to slightly bent (20-30 degree bend), so that can cause repetitive rubbing of the tendon over the end of the femur (lateral femoral condyle of the thigh bone). This can irritate the tendon and cause a sharp pain at the outer knee region. 

Patellofemoral syndrome

This is a catch-all term for any knee issue surrounding the patella (knee cap) due to poor patellar tracking or form. It’s often associated with crepitus or a crunchy, cracking, popping feeling at the knee cap with movement. One of the most common is called chondromalacia patella and I’ve written an entire blog about this injury that you can read here

Stress fracture

Lastly, a tibial stress fracture is common in runner’s due to the repetitive loading up through the heel to the tibia in the lower leg. It starts as a microscopic small injury, but over time can worsen.


Now those are the most common, but there are also many other frequent RRI’s like achilles tendinopathies, ankle sprains (especially of the outer ankle ligaments), hamstring strains (cramping), glute tendonopathies, ingrown toe nails, hip bursitis, meniscus tears, calf strains, & more!

So now that we are more aware of these potential injuries, how can we best prevent them?

common running injuries

How to Prevent Running Injuries

Of course not all injuries are preventable, but you can certainly do your best to prevent them or at least minimize the severity of them by:

  • Warming up before each run using mobility exercises

  • Focus on using good running technique/form

  • Wearing proper footwear based on your foot type and gait

  • Progressing (adding speed and mileage) slowly

  • Listening to your body (taking it easier when you’re not feeling 100%)

  • Strength training regularly (with an emphasis on glute strength)

  • Run on soft surfaces when possible

  • Cross train - no need to run 7 days per week - mix things up

Mobility for Runners

Recently on Instagram, I shared this great runner's mobility warm-up video. Give it a try before each run to warm-up and improve your running performance:

1️⃣ Hurdlers (great for warming up the hip flexors and hips)⠀

2️⃣ Deep squat knee taps (works the entire lower body)⠀

3️⃣ Pigeon walks (loosens up the hips, especially the glutes and piriformis)⠀

4️⃣ Bentover thoracic rotation (for when you have to turn and look over your shoulder at traffic haha) 

5️⃣ Deep low lunge into quad stretch (for the hip flexors and quads)⠀

6️⃣ Ankle rocks (made these up for ankle mobility and also eccentrics for the shins)

mobility

Mission: Mobilize, Modify, Move

As you may have heard, I just launched an online course that may be extremely valuable to you. It’s called Applied Mobility. This course teaches busy men and women with aches and pains how to mobilize their bodies each day for pain relief, reduce medical expenses, improve their movement, and prevent injury.

It’s a Teachable course with 7 modules, >232 exercises, and a sports-specific runner’s warm-up chapter.

PLUS, I haven’t shared this publicly yet but…. I also launched an add-on called Run Injury Free! Surprise! At checkout, if you decide you want to learn more about avoiding injuries as a runner, you can add this product to your cart for a video lesson, warm-up, recovery video, and full 12-week running program to progress you from 0 to 3 miles with less chance of injury.

Want to get Applied Mobility with the Run Injury Free add-on? 

Why wait any longer? Start taking preventative action toward injuries today so you can remain a runner for years to come!

As a runner, it should be an extremely high priority for you to prevent injury as best possible. Because one injury and you can’t run at all for a few weeks likely. As a runner, I know how devastating it can feel to have to stop doing what you love.

I’ve already shared with you a list about how to prevent running injuries and a mobility warm-up above. Now, let’s talk about modifications.

As a runner, if you have a current injury you should modify your workouts. Focus less on running and more on cross training. Maybe you spend more time strength training and doing rehab-based exercises of the injured area (be sure to include eccentrics). Maybe for cardio work you instead do upper body rowing or a low impact form of cardio (i.e. elliptical, cycline, stairmill, etc)..

If you don’t have any current injuries but just wrapped up recovering from one, you should modify your running workouts by writing out a couple week plan to ease back into running. 

Here’s an example:

  • Week 1: Run 1x/wk at half the distance and speed as usual
  • Week 2: Run 2x/wk at ¾ the distance and ¾ the speed as usual
  • Week 3: Run 3x/wk at full distance and ¾ the speed as usual
  • Week 4: Run 3x/wk at full distance and full speed

If your symptoms return at all, regress and move back up the list instead of down it.

Whatever the case is, remember there are other ways to MOVE besides running. I know you’re a runner and love getting that runner’s high, but sometimes running isn’t the best thing for your body if you have an injury.

So ease off the running pedal and up the cross training temporarily.

Are you ready to learn more about Applied Mobility and Run Injury Free?

common running injuries

Thanks for reading!

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About Dr. Steph

Doctor of Physical therapy and Online Training & Nutrition Coach with a passion for teaching men and women how to train despite injury.

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