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Optimizing Your Running Performance: Injury Reduction Techniques

Running is one of the most popular activities in which people of all ages, fitness levels, and physical goals participate. It is an activity that can be done all year round, on rainy and cold days, and wherever you are. 

Like any sport, running comes with its inherent injury risk. Since running is a repetitive movement, these are the most common injuries seen with runners. One of the best ways to overcome injuries and prevent future injuries is through a combination of injury prevention, performance enhancement, and recovery strategies.

In this blog, we will talk about the most common running injuries and tips to reduce your risk of injury.

Understanding Common Running Injuries

  • Shin Splints
    • Causes: Due to repetitive stress and strain on the muscles and tendons/ligaments that attach to your shin. Tightness/weakness in surrounding musculature or poor footwear.
    • Symptoms: anterior shin pain/tightness which usually starts as intermittent pain during activity, but with time can develop into more persistent pain even after activity.
    • Prevention Strategies: Stretching of gastroc-soleus musculature, progressive loading of gastrocs/Achilles tendon, intrinsic foot strengthening, ankle mobility, and proper footwear.
  • Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)
    • Causes: Due to repetitive stress on the knee and associated soft tissue. Seen with hip/thigh weakness, foot dysfunction, and hip/lower extremity bony abnormalities. 
    • Symptoms: Anterior knee pain, knee swelling, and knee stiffness with activity.
    • Prevention Strategies: Hip/thigh strengthening, ankle mobility, lower extremity stretching, rest, ice.
  • IT Band Syndrome
    • Causes: Repetitive rubbing and irritation of the illiotibial band at the hip or knee. Seen in those with foot pronation, weak hip abductors, internal tibial torsion, or existing tightness.
    • Symptoms: Lateral hip/knee pain, difficulty sleeping on side, pain with activity, and clicking sensation in hip.
    • Prevention Strategies: Hip strengthening, consistent stretching, cortisone injection, rest, ice
  • Other Common Injuries
    • Plantar fasciitis, low back pain/SI joint dysfunction, medial meniscus tear, stress fracture, etc.

Injury Reduction Tips

  • Gradual Increase in Training: Runners are more likely to get injured during times of increased training intensity/frequency. Therefore, it is important to slowly increase your mileage when training as well as train in a variety of ways. It is also important to implement and utilize rest days. 
  • Proper Warm Up/Cool Down: It is important to always perform a dynamic warm up of 10-15 minutes prior to a run and well a static cool down for 10-15 minutes to allow for muscular recovery. 
  • Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Strength Training: Strength training is one of the best ways to improve your muscles ability to withstand the repetitive forces of running. It will help to improve the tolerance of muscles used both frequently and infrequency in running.
  • Seek Professional Help: Seek physical therapists or sports medicine doctors to help you with your mechanics, running form, and areas that would benefit from improvement to reduce your injury risk.

In conclusion, running is a great form of exercise which is popular throughout the world. Like all sports, injuries do occur, but knowing the most common injuries and ways to reduce their occurance will help to keep you running for years to come.


Dr. Kaitlin Bailey

PT, DPT, FMS, Cert.DN, Owner and Founder

We help active individuals and athletes conquer pain, overcome injury, and return to the activities they love through individualized, one-on-one, physical therapy and wellness services provided by a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

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