Top 3 Causes of Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them
Updated: Oct 7
We all have our own running journey. For some of us, running is a regular routine. For others, it’s a new form of exercise. No matter where you are in your running journey, injuries can happen. But here’s the good news: Running injuries are not inevitable.
As runners who are also physical therapists, we see our fair share of running injuries. Here are three common causes of running injuries and what you can to prevent them.
Running too much
Runners tend to be ambitious athletes. We often think that running more will equal faster times and better results. This leads us to take on a heavy volume of running without accounting for other stressors in life, such as a full-time job. The result: We end up with running injuries caused by overuse. Common overuse injuries include shin splints, stress fractures, and joint inflammation.
When you’re tempted to cram your calendar with runs, remember this: Choose quality over quantity. Training at a volume that’s right for you—one that makes sense for your lifestyle, running background, and injury history. And instead of running the same 6-mile route over and over, try to incorporate more meaningful workouts into your routine. These could include mobility and strength workouts that focus on areas of your body that take the brunt of overuse, such as your ankles, knees, and hips.
Running too fast
The tale of the turtle and the hare comes to mind when I see a runner who always keeps a fast pace. Rarely does this produce wins for the runner. However, it can put the runner at risk for developing acute muscle strains, specifically in the hamstrings and calf muscles.
Unfortunately, too many runners miss one of the most important concepts in training: periodized training. This type of training involves periods of incrementally loaded training stress followed by rest. In other words, it’s important to grade your efforts and take it easy on long runs. Slowly build yourself up with intervals to the point where you can sustain a harder effort for longer periods of time. Your body will thank you!
Running too soon
Every runner’s body responds to stress differently. For example, one runner might excel at training with 20 miles per week and another might thrive on 60 miles per week. The risk of running injuries comes from building up to higher mileages before your body is ready.
This can be a hard pill to swallow if you’re trying to stay on track for a specific progression. But whether you’re just getting into running or making a return to running after a prolonged break, it’s important to be patient. Slowly build up your mileage and intensity, and add cross-training and variability to your workouts. Doing so can help to keep you from reaggravating your running injuries or creating new ones.
Prevent running injuries with a training plan
No matter where you are at in your running journey, following a personalized training plan can be extremely beneficial. Not only does a training plan give you a focused approach, but it can keep you from running too fast, too much, and too soon. With a plan in hand, you’ll know the speed, volume, and mileage that’s best for you as well as how to keep your body strong, mobile, and injury-free.