This article was published on February 3rd, 2014
Whether you are training for a 10km run or a full marathon, running injuries will occur. Most running injuries are minor and recovery can less than 24 hours, while other injuries can last for days or maybe a few weeks. It’s important to understand the types of running injuries and how severe they are in order to determine how to handle them.
“The five most common running injuries we see at our stores are plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, morton’s neuroma and bruised nails,” said Christian Johannsen is a Certified Pedorthist at Foot Solutions Kitsilano and Foot Solutions Ambleside. “As with most injuries, most of the above injuries can be treated using R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). However, knowing the first warning signs of these foot conditions can help prevent them from putting a stop to your New Year’s resolution.”
Christian explains in detail each of the five most common running injuries and how to treat them.
A common complaint that starts out with a pain in the arch, near the heel bone, and is often felt first thing in the morning. The first few steps out of bed can be extremely painful, yet the pain subsides as the day progresses, only to return after rising from a seated position. Pain is most often only present in one foot.
Treatment: Early detection and treatment is critical to prevent this injury from sticking around. To start, take a break from any vigorous activity until the pain subsides. Ice the foot when painful and then massage it to stimulate blood circulation to the area. A combination of icing and massage can be achieved with a frozen water bottle that is rolled under the foot.
In the mornings it’s recommended to stretch out the foot prior to rising from bed. To do this rest your foot on your opposite knee and stretch the toes upwards towards the shin. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Night splints may also be used to achieve the same result.
When at home it’s strongly recommended to wear supportive slippers, to prevent excessive stretching of the plantar fascia and reduce the likelihood of re-injuring the tissue. Ready-made arch supports can help this in any other daily footwear. When biomechanical problems are present, custom foot orthotics may be necessary.
Ever felt as if the front of your lower leg was on fire? Shin Splints, or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), cause the anterior tibialis (muscle) to put pressure on the tibia and fibula, the two bones making up the lower part of the leg. This pressure can cause debilitating pain, making it near impossible to walk or run, and in some cases may cause stress fractures in these bones that will take time to heal.
Treatment: To treat this condition it’s important to determine the root cause of the problem. Start by icing the muscle to reduce inflammation and then have a look at your footwear to be sure that they are not the cause of the pain. Shoes that are older than 8 months are unlikely to provide your foot the cushioning it needs to pound the pavement day in and day out. Most running shoes don’t last longer than 600 to 800kms and should be changed at that time.
If biomechanical issues are at fault (i.e. overpronation, excessive inward rolling of the feet), arch supports or custom foot orthotics may be indicated to help prevent excessive pull on the anterior tibialis tendon, which attaches at the side of your foot, near the big toe.
Strength training exercises for the anterior tibialis are also indicated to help prevent shin pain from recurring in the future.
A common injury that causes pain at the insertion of the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel.
Treatment: Achilles tendonitis should first be treated with ice packs to reduce swelling. Heel drop exercises are indicated to strengthen the calf muscle and tendon. However, prior to this, give the tendon some rest to allow it some time to recover.
Cushioned heel lifts can help reduce stress on the tendon through elevation and shock absorption. These can be placed under orthotics or right on top of the insole of your favourite running shoe. If biomechanical faults are causing the tendon to be stressed, arch supports or custom foot orthotics are indicated to help prevent further injury.
If you feel like you’re stepping on a pebble, feel extreme pain in the ball of your foot or a stinging, burning sensation in your toes you may be suffering from Morton’s Neuroma. This condition is often aggravated by tight and constricting footwear. It involves the thickening of the tissue around the nerve leading to your toes. Pain is most often felt between the 3rd and 4th toe, but may occasionally also be felt between the second and third toe.
Treatment: Wider footwear with a more spacious toe box are recommended to prevent excessive pressure on the nerve. Metatarsal pads, little supports that are placed behind the ball of the foot can help space apart the metatarsal bones and thus reduce the pressure on the nerve and with it pain. Toe socks, such as Injinji, have also proven successful in the treatment of morton’s neuroma, as they help to space apart the bones ever so slightly.
Bruised Toe Nails or Ingrown Nails
Bruised nails are a common sight as a large number of the population tends to wear shoes that are too short for their feet. Narrow feet especially make the mistake of selecting a shorter shoe in order to allow the footwear to fit the width.
Treatment: To prevent injuries to the nails it’s important to leave ample space at the end of the longest toe (which could be the 2nd or 3rd toe) to keep the toe from making contact with the end of the shoe when running. We recommend a finger’s width of space. If the shoes feel too wide at this point consider switching into a more narrow option to prevent the foot from feeling loose inside the shoe.
Now that you know how to prevent injuries from developing into chronic foot conditions, consider entering the first big race of the Vancouver running season, WestVanRun.