Ask any runner what they fear most, and getting injured will be right up there with hills, queuing for portaloos, and possibly sharks.

The list of common niggles a runner can suffer is pretty long, but the good news is there are ways to speed recovery, or better still prevent injury in the first place.

From grumbling knees to aching arches, here’s how to spot four of the most common running injuries and how to treat them.

runners knee

What is runners knee?

Runners and their knees are a cranky combination and one of the most common niggles is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), or runners knee.

What are the main symptons of runners knee?

Runners knee mainly causes pain towards the front or underside of your kneecap

Runners knee mainly causes pain towards the front or underside of your kneecap. You might have tenderness behind your kneecap and toward the back of your knee, and going up and down stairs can leave you feeling as though your knee is about to give out.

What causes runners knee?

[related_articles]No one really knows what causes runners knee. Common wisdom tends to point to muscular imbalances and weaknesses such as tight calves and hamstrings, or weak quads. Women suffer from runners knee more than men, as their wider hips increase the angle of the thighbone to the knee, putting extra strain on the kneecap.

Can I run through it?

If it hurts, the simple answer is noHowever, some new rehab theories suggest that if you can run pain free for a period before the ouch kicks in, this can aid recovery by keeping your knee well adapted to the state of running.  

How can I treat runners knee?

Cut your mileage to give your body the chance to heal. Take anti-inflammatories and/or get an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas on it to reduce inflammation. Avoid heavy-duty activities that involve bending your knees a lot, as this will only aggravate the injury.

How can I prevent runners knee?

Avoid injury by giving your body time to get used to activities. Rather than going from your running your first mile to bashing out 10 miles a month later, add mileage to your training steadily. Avoid increases of more than 10 per cent a week.

Take your training runs onto softer ground to reduce impact

Take your training runs onto softer ground, or at least keep the terrain varied, to reduce impact and ensure you have decent running shoes that are right for your style.

Strengthen, stretch and foam roll the bits and bobs surrounding your knee, including your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and ITBs.


What is ITB syndrome?

Another of the most common running injuries, iliotibial band syndrome flares up when the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, gets tight or inflamed. The ITB connects to the outside of the knee and so can cause friction.

What are the main symptoms of ITB syndrome?

The pain from ITBS tends to be a lot more pronounced than runners knee

The pain from ITBS tends to be a lot more pronounced than runners knee (PFPS). Youll likely experience pain in the upper outside of your knee that makes it too painful to run, despite the fact you might still be able to walk and do other activities with no problem. 

What causes ITB syndrome? 

There can be lots of triggers for ITB syndrome. Running in worn out shoes or switching to a new pair can bring it on, as can any activity that causes your knee to repeatedly turn inwards. The most common reports, though, come from people who have suddenly increased their cumulative mileage in training, or done a long run thats two or three times the distance theyre used to running. 

Can I run through ITB syndrome? 

The short answer is no. Itll probably hurt too much to consider it.

How can I treat ITB syndrome?

Rest. Stop running for sure. Stop using the affected leg at all if you can. Or just do what the US Marines do. They found that three days of total immobilisation of the dodgy leg, followed by a slow return to running once the pain had stopped, had a 99 per cent success rate when used on more than 2,000 injured marines.

How can I prevent ITB syndrome?

Increase your training mileage steadily. Avoid doing sudden Sunday 18 milers if all youve done previously is six. Invest in a foam roller and do this: 

plantar fasciitis

What is plantar fasciitis?

Your plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous band that runs along the bottom of your foot

Your plantar fascia is a thick, fibrous band that runs along the bottom of your foot, from your heel to your toe. Plantar fasciitis is caused by small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments in this area.

What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

The main sign youve got plantar problems is a dull ache along the arch of your foot or on the bottom of your heel. Youll spot it during those first few steps out of bed first thing in the morning and it'll unsurprisingly become sharper and more pronounced when your feet are striking the ground during running, particularly as you push off.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Runners with very high or low arches tend to be more at risk, while extreme pronators (the amount your foot rolls inwards while running) are also firmly in the cross hares. 

As with a lot of other common running injuries, the root cause is often muscular imbalance

As with other running injuries, rapidly increasing mileage can be a trigger. While running and pushing off the ground, you expose your body to as much as seven times your body weight so its no surprise that doing too much of this before youve built up strength in the right areas can cause damage.

As with a lot of other common running injuries, while the miles are the thing that bring out the injury, the root cause of the problem is often down to muscular imbalances or other problems higher up the body, like tight calf muscles. These weakness affect your running form and the way your feet strike the ground, bringing out issues like plantar fasciitis.

Can I run through plantar fasciitis? 

It is possible to push on through mild plantar fasciitis but this is likely to delay recovery. You could consider running in a swimming pool, where the impact on your feet is vastly reduced, although you will get strange looks. You have been warned. 

How should I treat plantar fasciitis?

Rolling your foot over objects of varying sizes and hardness can help stretch out the plantar fascia tissue. Invest in balls, like a tennis ball and a golf ball, or even use a frozen bottle of water. Work your foot over these five or six times a day, slowly making your way down to the smaller, harder balls as your condition improves.  

How can I prevent plantar fasciitis?

Make sure your upper chain is in good working order to help prevent muscular imbalance and the onset of plantar fasciitis. Stretch your calf muscles, roll your ITBs and work on your core with planks, back extensions and strength work. 

Some experts recommend considering custom orthotics (inner soles designed specifically for your foot shape). Making a trip to a sports podiatrist should help you work out if thats your best course of action. 

shin splints

What are shin splints?

Another of the most common running injuries that can be seriously painful and extremely frustrating, shin splints, also know as medial tibial stress syndrome, strike when you get tearing in the muscles around your shin bone.

Youll have a dull ache or sharp, stabbing pain along the edges of your shine bone

What are the symptoms of shin splints?

Youll have a dull ache or sharp, stabbing pain along the edges of your shine bone. Its more common to get these medially (on the inside edge where your bone meets calf muscle) but they can happen on the outside edge too. With the latter its possible for the pain to extend down into the ankle or foot. 

What causes shin splints? 

Were starting to sound like a broken record here but shin splints are very common in people whove just started running, or taken up a more intensive training programme and basically gone too far, too soon. 

Can I run through shin splints?

If you catch it early enough, before it becomes a seriously debilitating bout, then it is possible to ease back and reduce your mileage without moving to complete rest.

The key is to find a level of running where its comfortable and pain-free and then gradually increase from there.

Just like plantar fasciitis, another option is to do some lower impact exercise, such as running in a swimming pool. 

When it first flares up, get ice on it several times a day to reduce inflammation

How should I treat shin splints?

When it first flares up, get ice on it several times a day to reduce inflammation. Reduce your running or take a complete break until youve been pain free for a fortnight, then make sure your return is gradual, keeping mileage increases to no more than 10 per cent a week. 

How can I prevent shin splints?

Avoid sudden increases in mileage and make sure youve got the right running shoes for your gait. Mix up your training to include something that features more lateral movement, engaging and strengthening other muscles that dont just involve propelling yourself forward in one straight line.