Don’t let injury force you to retire your running shoes.

Don’t let injury force you to retire your running shoes.

Running is one of the most popular ways to burn calories, get in shape, and improve your health. On the treadmill, around your neighborhood, or through park trails, running is a simple way to get a daily dose exercise.

The nature of the sport, however, puts you at risk for injury. That’s because as simple as it may be, running is not a low-impact exercise. It’s hard on your joints, with the repetitive pounding on the pavement causing wear and tear on your body over time.

No runner wants to sit on the sidelines because of injury. Avoid these five common running injuries to stay on track for a long and healthy running career.

Runner’s Knee

An estimated 40 percent of running injuries affect the knee, and runner’s knee is one of the most common. An overuse injury, runner’s knee occurs when the cartilage under the kneecap begins to wear down from repetitive use. Many times, runners knee is the result of a muscle imbalance in your legs or overpronation (your foot rolls inward when you step).

With the condition, you’ll feel pain in your knee—especially when squatting, walking up or down stairs, or after your knee has been bent a long time. To recover, it’s important to take a break from running, particularly down hills. Continue to strengthen surrounding muscles by cycling, working out on an elliptical machine, or swimming. Don’t get back into your regular routine until you’re completely pain-free.

Plantar Fasciitis

It’s no surprise that feet are at risk for running injuries. With each step, your feet absorb the force of more than three times your body weight. Along the bottom of your foot, from your heel to your toes, is a band of tissue called the plantar fascia. Small tears and inflammation in this band can cause plantar fasciitis.

With plantar fasciitis you’ll feel an ache, bruising, or sharp heel pain or tenderness that’s worse after activity or prolonged rest. Treatment includes rest, ice, supportive shoes, and calf stretches. It takes an average of six months to heal from plantar fasciitis.

Achilles Tendinopathy

Also known as tendinitis, Achilles tendinopathy occurs when the Achilles tendon (the tendon that attaches the back of the heel to the calf muscles) is inflamed due to overuse. With Achilles tendinopathy, you’ll feel pain and tenderness in your heel and Achilles tendon. Muscle imbalances, big increases in your running distance, and tight calf muscles put you at risk.

Running despite the pain will worsen the injury and prolong healing. The best thing to do is rest from running. Ice the area several times a day. While recovering, perform calf stretches and continue to do low-impact exercise to keep your muscles strong.

Shin Splints

Your shins also suffer the brunt of the impact of running. Usually setting in after running too far or too fast too soon, shin splints cause pain and aching along the front or inside of your shin along the bone. If you’ve got flat feet, high arches, or unsupportive shoes, you’re more likely to get shin splints.

Recovering from shin splints requires rest from running, plenty of stretching exercises, ice, and a gradual re-entry to running. In the meantime, it’s a safe bet to bike or swim to stay in shape.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

Along the outer thigh is a ligament called the iliotibial (IT) band that connects the hip to the knee. When the IT band thickens, it rubs against the knee bone, causing pain on the outer side of the knee. IT irritation can occur when you have a muscle imbalance, overpronation, or differing leg lengths. It also arises if you increase your running distance too quickly or do a lot of downhill running or track work.

Continuing with intense workouts despite pain can make your injury worse and lengthen recovery. To get over ITBS, cut back on your distance, cross train, ice after your workouts, and do plenty of stretching before any sort of activity.

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