Running injuries are usually overuse injuries of the foot, lower leg, knee, and hip. View the most common injuries here as well as when to seek medical advice and top tips for avoiding running injuries.
Common running injuries
Select from the options below to view more detailed information on specific running injuries.
Foot & heel injuries
- Plantar Fasciitis – the most common cause of heel pain, often radiating into the arch of the foot and is usually worse first thing in the morning.
- Bruised heel – heel pain which doesn’t radiate into the arch of the foot and gets progressively worse with use.
- Calcaneal stress fracture – A stress fracture of the heel bone with persistent symptoms similar to a bruised heel.
- Bunion – deformity of the forefoot causing on the inside of the forefoot
- Athletes foot – how to treat and avoid this common and preventable skin condition.
- Ingrown toenail – toe pain caused by the toes growing down into the skin at the sides of the nail.
- Blisters – prevention is better than a cure. Learn how to treat blisters already formed as well as how to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
- Extensor tendonitis – gradual onset pain along the top of the foot
- Metatarsal stress fracture – gradual onset and persistent pain in the midfoot area.
Lower leg and ankle
- Shin splints – gradual onset pain on the inside lower part of the shin made worse with use. Learn how to cure this persistent and very common running injury.
- Calf strain – Sudden onset pain at the back of the lower leg. More likely caused by sprinting, jumping or a sudden change of direction.
- Ankle sprain – how to treat sprained ankles and prevent them from recurring as well as possible complications.
- Achilles tendonitis – gradual onset pain at the back of the ankle, usually worse first thing in the morning and can be stubborn to treat.
- Achilles tendon rupture – a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon. Runners over the age of 40 who have a history of Achilles pain are particularly susceptible.
- Peroneal tendonitis – gradual onset pain on the outside of the ankle.
- MCL sprain (medial ligament sprain) – a tear to the medial ligament on the inside of the knee, more likely to be a sudden acute injury.
- Medial cartilage meniscus injury – injury or degeneration of the cartilage meniscus on the inside of the knee. Can be gradual or sudden onset.
- ACL injury – anterior cruciate ligament sprain, a sudden onset knee joint injury, less common in runners and more likely caused by twisting the knee.
- Iliotibial band syndrome – sometimes known as runners knee causes pain on the outside of the knee which comes on gradually, often at a specific point in a run only to ease with rest.
- Jumpers knee (patella tendonitis) – persistent pain at the bottom front of the patella or kneecap.
- LCL sprain (lateral ligament injury) – ligament tear on the outside of the knee, can be acute but often in runners is gradual onset.
- Osgood Schlatters Disease – common overuse injury affecting children, with pain under the front of the knee at the top of the shin bone.
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome – also known as runners knee. Pain is caused by friction between the kneecap and the bone underneath.
Thigh & Groin
- Hamstring strain – sudden onset pain at the back of the thigh from a tear to one of the hamstring muscles.
- Thigh strain – muscle tear causing sudden onset pain at the front of the thigh.
- Groin strain – sudden onset groin pain on the inside of the thigh.
- Hernia – occurs when an internal part of the body such as the intestine, pushes through a weakness in the muscle wall.
- Gilmore’s groin – also known as a sportsman’s hernia, a vague type of groin pain that’s increased by running, sprinting, twisting and turning.
Should I seek professional treatment?
If you have any of the following symptoms you should seek further medical assistance.
- Severe pain, especially on walking
- Severe swelling (oedema)
- Altered sensation in the foot – such as a feeling of “pins and needles” (paresthesia) or a “loss of feeling” (anaesthesia).
- Unable to complete normal daily activities after the initial 72 hours.
Further medical assistance can be sought through either your local GP or a private clinician such as a podiatrist, physiotherapist, sports therapist, osteopath or chiropractor. If you have followed the P.R.I.C.E. principles (see below) and are still unable to walk after 72 hours or still have severe pain that is not subsiding after the first 72 hours you should visit your local A&E department for further assessment.
Secondly, if you have applied for P.R.I.C.E. principles and still have weakness that lasts a long time (more than 2 weeks) or have ongoing discomfort in your foot or heel, you are highly recommended to seek advice from a specialist expert – such as a podiatrist or physiotherapist, osteopath, or chiropractor – who can provide you with advice and an appropriate and effective recovery and rehabilitation program.
Immediate first aid for acute running injuries
The PRICE principles are the gold standard set for treating acute sports injuries. The acronym stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and should be applied as early as possible and continued for at least the first 24-72 hours.
Read more on PRICE principles
Preventing running injuries
Gait is the way in which we move our whole body from one point to another. Most often, this is done by walking, although we may also run, skip, hop etc. Gait analysis is a method used to assess the way we walk or run to highlight biomechanical abnormalities.
What are Biomechanical abnormalities?
Being able to move efficiently is important in avoiding injuries. Having joints capable of providing sufficient movement and muscles capable of producing sufficient force is vital to generate an efficient gait cycle. If joints are stiff (usually caused by muscle tightness), limiting the range of motion, or muscles are weak, the body must find ways of compensating for the problem, leading to biomechanical abnormalities.
Examples of biomechanical abnormalities include:
- Increased Q angle
- Hip hiking (or hitching) – lifting the hip on one side
- Ankle equinus – limited ankle dorsiflexion
- Pelvic tilt – can be either anterior, posterior or lateral
Biomechanical problems such as these are usually caused by muscular imbalances (tight muscles working against weak muscles), although they can sometimes be caused by structural problems, such as leg length discrepancies resulting in hip hiking.