Common Injuries of Runners

When taking up a new sport, or training for an event, there is an increased risk of injury.A common mistake made by many runners is over training and giving their bodies little time, if any, to rest and recover.

As a direct result of this, many running injuries occur as a result of overloading an unconditioned body. Below are a few common injuries associated with running, the signs and symptoms associated and what you can do to try and limit the chances of these occurring.

It is important to seek professional advice and care if you think you have any of these injuries or present with other signs/symptoms. Come into The University of St Mark and St John’s Sports Injury Clinic and we will give you an in-depth individual assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

-Ilio-Tibial Band (ITB) Syndrome (ITBS)

The ITB is a longitudinal fibrous reinforcement of fascia that begins from the hip and inserts on the outside of the knee joint. Tension within the ITB will only occur if the origin and insertion are moved further apart which may happen as a result of weakness or tightness around your hips i.e. your glutes or a pronated foot positioning.

From this, an increased amount of pressure is put through the ITB and causes inflammation to occur on either the bursa (a fluid filled sac) on the outside of the knee or a compression of the fat pad. The repetitive movement that occurs within the running gait will therefore result in continuous friction on the bursa leading to knee pain. Other causes may include biomechanical dysfunctions including valgus collapse of the knees, over pronated foot positioning and imbalances in the hip flexors.

Sign/Symptons

  • Pain on the outside of the knee
  • Increased pain on compression such as lying on the affected side
  • Increased pain in the morning
  • Swelling may be present on the outside of the knee
  • Occasional popping on the outside of the knee

How to avoid it

Be aware not to overload your body and progress too quickly through a training programme. You should be increasing your running by no more than 10% per week.

It is important to condition your body for what activity you are wanting it to perform. Including some strength training into your programme (it doesn’t need to involve a gym); glute bridges, squats, superman (legs only), plus single leg variations will carry over to your running technique and improve your overall performance.

Seek professional advice with regards to your running technique. Prevention of an injury is far more productive, therefore, have somebody trained look at your running and functional movement techniques, such as squatting.

How to alleviate symptoms

If you think you may have this there are several ways you can help to alleviate symptoms:

  • Tennis ball/ foam roll into your glutes and the top of the outside of your hip (tensor fascia latae (TFL) muscle). (If your glutes and TFL are tight, they may alter the mechanics of the IT band)
  • Reduce your training volume (if you train 3 days, reduce it to 2 days) and supplement it with other training such as swimming.
  • Soft tissue release to the lateral quadriceps and lateral hamstrings may help to reduce any tension within the ITB.
  • If pain is present you can use ice to help reduce the pain (place an ice cube in a plastic cup and gently massage it over the area) for no more than 5-10 minutes

-Hip (Greater Trochanteric) Bursitis)

Similar to ITBS, there is a bursa that lies underneath the attachment of the gluteal muscles. Continual friction on this bursa can lead to inflammation and hip pain

Sign/Symptons

  • Tenderness over the upper outer part of the thigh, especially when touched
  • Lying on the affected side
  • Standing for a long period of time
  • Sitting with the legs crossed
  • Climbing stairs
  • Running or any high impact activity
  • Repetitive hip movements

How to avoid it

Look at how you are progressing your training; do not increase your running distance by more than 10% week to week

Add some strength training into your programme (it doesn’t need to involve a gym); glute bridges, squats, superman (legs only), plus single leg variations.

Look at your running/squatting technique

Regularly tennis ball/foam roll your glutes

How to alleviate symptoms

If you think you may have this there are several ways you can help to alleviate symptoms:

  • Tennis ball/ foam roll into your glutes and the top of the outside of your hip (tensor fascia latae (TFL) muscle)
    (If your glutes and TFL are tight, they may alter the mechanics of the IT band)
  • Isometric contractions of the glutes
  • Reduce your training volume and supplement it with other training
  • Avoid/reduce the level of activity that involves glute involvement (the majority of movements involve the glutes; stair climbing, sitting-to-standing etc, so minimise these activities where possible)

-Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Chondramalacia Patellae)

The patella (kneecap) sits in a groove of the femur (thigh bone) and the underneath surface of the patella is covered with cartilage. It is wear and tear or softening of this cartilage that can cause knee pain.

Sign/Symptons

  • Pain when descending stairs or hills
  • Pain when the knee is held in a bent position
  • Mild swelling may be present
  • Snapping or popping around the patella
  • A ‘ripping’ sound when bending the knee

How to avoid it

  • Look at how you are progressing your training; do not increase your running distance by more than 10% week to week
  • Add some strength training into your programme (it doesn’t need to involve a gym); glute bridges, squats, superman (legs only), plus single leg variations.
  • Look at your running/squatting technique
  • Regularly tennis ball/foam roll your glutes

-Plantar fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a fibrous connective tissue that expands the length of the sole of the foot from the heel bone (calcaneus) to the toes. During weight bearing, the tibia creates tension through the plantar fascia which adds critical stability to a loaded foot with minimal muscle activity.

Sudden damage or damage can occur over many months can cause tiny tears inside the tissue of the plantar fascia. The surrounding tissues and the heel bone can become inflamed.


Sign/Symptons

  • Heel pain with the first few steps in the morning of after long periods of non-weight bearing
  • Tenderness to the anterior medial heel
  • Tight Achilles Tendon and may have reduced movement at the ankle
  • May have a limp if particularly painful

How to avoid it

  • Look at how you are progressing your training; do not increase your running distance by more than 10% week to week
  • Stretches to the plantar fascia (place your toes on a wall and heel on the floor. Take your weight in towards the wall until you can feel a gentle stretch into your calf and foot
  • Add some strength training into your programme (it doesn’t need to involve a gym); glute bridges, squats, superman (legs only), plus single leg variations.
  • Look at your running/squatting technique
  • Isometric heel raises
  • Regularly roll a tennis ball to the bottom of your feet or have a sports massage

-Plantar fasciitis

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is the medical term for the injury commonly known as shin splints. If you are an experienced runner, the chances are at some stage you would have personal experiences with this injury or you will know someone that has. Despite this injury being one of the most commonly seen within the running population, there is still little understanding surrounding this problem.

One of the most recognised explanations is that tightness or weakness within the muscles attaching to the shin bone (tibia bone) mainly tibialis posterior, coupled with excessive movement of the ankle joint, causes an irritation of the connective tissue that covers the tibia, known as the periosteum.

Decreased calf strength has also been linked to this injury. During running there is a considerable amount of force that travels up through the shin bone, research suggesting up to 3 times your bodyweight. This shock is absorbed by the tibia bone therefore, if the calf muscles were strong, they would be able to take some of this shock and act as a supporting mechanism for the tibia.

Excessive pronation of the foot can also cause an increase in medial tibial stress, coupled with a medial rotation of the tibia. The problem that occurs from this is that now the ground reaction force is being absorbed at an angle meaning the medial aspect of the tibia is now the main site for the shock.

Sign/Symptons

  • Pain located on the distal 2/3rds on the medial tibia bone
  • Pain increases during exercise
  • Tight/weak calf muscles
  • Pronated foot positioning
  • Pain increasing in the morning

How to avoid it

  • Decrease your training or replace a run with a non-impact activity such as swimming
  • Ice treatment to the painful area
  • Soft tissue release to the surrounding area
  • Gentle stretching to the Achilles tendon and calf muscles e
  • Placing an arch support in the shoes can act as a temporary solution for pain reduction. It is important however to understand that this is not a long term solution and it is important to regain the natural arch of your foot. Exercises to help with this include towel pick-ups and the short foot exercise