The Truth About Running Injuries

injuryRunning is one of the most popular sports and hobbies in recent times. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 500,000 annual marathon finishers and up to 40 million people who run regularly.

Of those 40 million people, more than 10 million are running at least 100 days a year!

Running can be enjoyed by almost anyone despite age. Not only is running fun, but it has many health benefits including (although not limited to) the following:

Amazing Health Benefits of Running

  • Reduces cardiovascular risks (including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels)
  • Reduces risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Improves bone mass
  • Helps to maintains muscle strength
  • Reduces depression
  • Improves mood
  • Optimizes hormones (such as growth hormone)
  • Aides in weight maintenance or weight loss in combination with a healthy diet

The Truth About Running Injuries

Running has obvious benefits, but can running be dangerous?

The Journal of Sports Medicine published a study that showed that the overall yearly incidence of running injuries is between 37-56% with rates varying between men and women. Other research articles place injury incidence rates as high as 70%.

Most running related injuries are classified as repetitive motion injuries. This means that they weren’t caused by accidents (such as a fall). Research shows that lower extremity injuries are the most common. The knee is the most common joint injured while low back pain (LBP) prevalence is similar in runners and non-runners alike.

The most common running injuries include:

  • Patellofemoral pain (PFPS)
  • Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)
  • Achilles tendinopathy/Achilles tendinitis
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS)
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Stress fractures of the metatarsals and tibia

Age Plays A Role

There are many risk factors for running related injuries. Age seems to play a role as to which type of injury one may be prone to. For master’s runners (those who are at least 40 years old), there tends to be a higher incidence of soft tissue injuries (particularly to the calf, Achilles tendon, and hamstring muscles). Knee injuries seem to be more common in younger runners. Regardless of age, women are more prone to stress fractures.

Research has shown that most running injuries are multifactorial. This means that there is rarely just one cause to the injury. Being aware of the common characteristics and risk factors that may increase your likelihood of injury can help you to be proactive in avoiding injury in the first place!

Factors that can increase your risk for injury include:

  • Repetitive motion. You only run and do not cross train. You run in a similar fashion such as tempo or location.
  • Gender. Being male puts you at a higher risk for injury.
  • Studies consistently report an association between the female gender and stress fracture risk. The risk is higher among females with lower bone density, menstrual disturbances, and dietary deficiencies (as seen in the female athlete triad).
  • Prior injury.
  • Greater running distances and/or weekly mileage.
  • Prolonged periods of time with high training intensity.
  • Rapid increases in weekly running distance or intensity.
  • Poor cross training and stretching habits.
  • Having high arches (Pes cavus).
  • Poor or inappropriate training plan or schedule.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Muscle imbalances.

Those At Risk

In general, runners who sustained injury were more likely to be male and to run six days per week and averaging more than 30 miles each week. A greater risk was also shown for those that ran longer distances, but who tended to run 14 or more miles only once in two weeks.

If you’re running longer distances, it’s best to do it sooner than every 14 days and to have more rest days versus daily running days. The biggest risk factors for injury seem to be for those who run greater mileage and who are obese.

The Good News About Running Injuries

Most running injuries are what we call overuse injuries which mostly occur from training errors (running frequency, duration, distance, speed, and lack of leg strength and flexibility) as well as inappropriate surfaces, terrain, and footwear. These are more common than acute injuries (such as ligament and muscle sprains and strains).

Most running injuries are associated with a repetitive motion injury and tend to be multifactorial in nature (having more than one cause). Since most variables are controllable, running related injuries should be considered not only treatable, but preventable!

  • One example from research shows that regular interval training is protective against knee injury. Changing running surfaces (particularly, from running on concrete) and skewing toward softer surfaces can reduce injury rates in general. Interestingly, running on a treadmill reduces the stresses placed on the tibia. It may thereby reduce the risk of tibial stress fractures, but running on a treadmill can place increased pressure on the knee (including the patellar tendon).

Overuse running injuries are typically due to controllable variables. A vast majority of these injuries could then be considered preventable. However, rarely do runners know that they are about to commit a training error that will place them on the path to injury and pain. This ultimately leads to lost training days, missed races, and unmet goals.

That’s why I’ve teamed up with Angie and Trevor to create the Resilient Runner Program for preventing and self-treating injuries . . .

Introducing the Resilient Runner Program!

Resilient Runner logoWe believe this will be the most comprehensive resource available for learning how to deal with running injuries the right way.

The Resilient Runner Program is designed to help you prevent and avoid injury so that you can continue to train and compete in order to meet your goals. If you do sustain an injury, you’ll be able to refer to in-depth information on how to quickly recover from all of the most common running related injuries.

Some of the injuries covered include:

  • Hamstring Injury
  • Runner’s Knee (Patellar Femoral Pain)
  • Patellar Tendinitis
  • Meniscus Tear
  • Low Back and Piriformis Pain
  • Glute Pain
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Shin Splints
  • Achilles Tendinitis
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Stress Fracture

For each injury you will get in-depth yet easy to follow tutorials for identifying the root cause and self-treating the area with the same techniques that I use with my patients.

Read more about the Resilient Runner here:

2 Responses to The Truth About Running Injuries

  1. Howard Elakman May 4, 2017 at 2:06 pm #

    I was born 8/17 29. I have been a runner for more than 60 years. I am not a very fast runner. I have done 36 marathons and many halves and and other races. I am a certified running coach ( USATF & RRCA). I have a degree in electrical engineering. My observations over the years are:
    1- Many people come down on their heel. The human body is not designed to take a force on the heel. Hitting on the heel sends a force up through the entire body causing an effect on the knees, hips and up to the lower back. People should keep their feet as close to the surface as they can. In some cases this means a shuffle. Raising the foot up high causes it to come down on the surface with very high impact. The forward LEAN with a push off (to extend the stride length) is a helpful way to reduce injury.
    2- Certainly maintaining a healthy & strong body can help to reduce injury.
    3- There is no thing that eliminates injury; you can only reduce the possibility.

  2. Ben Shatto May 4, 2017 at 8:56 pm #


    Thank you for your insight! I certainly agree that maintaining a healthy body, healthy eating, and working on preventative maintenance is the best way to reduce the risk of injury. Although completely eliminating injury is impossible, taking a proactive approach to one’s training will definitely reduce the risk of injury and proper rehabilitation post injury can speed up recovery.

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