We all love running and hate getting injured, but unfortunately they come hand in hand, studies have estimated 70% of runners sustain an overuse running injury every year. There are many factors that predispose us to running injuries, some of these are difficult to change, however there are many variable’s that we can control to minimise the risk of injury.

What is a running injury and why are they common?

There are a number of factors that contribute to running injuries that’s why it’s very hard to completely avoid them.

A running injury is defined as ‘a running-related musculoskeletal pain/problem in the lower limbs that causes a decrease or stoppage in weekly training’.

When the body receives repetitive micro-trauma, it will lead to injury at the weakest anatomical location in a vulnerable structure. Research has found more than 80% of running-related injuries occur at or below the knee, indicating this area of the body is weaker and more vulnerable to injury.

When running the ground reaction force in the midstance phase (full body weight on the stance leg) is equivalent of up to five times your body weight. This force multiplied over the duration of a run puts a massively increased amount of stress through the lower body.

To summarise the above, running injuries are more common than other sports injuries due to increased force going through the lower body repetitively. This means we need to be very careful when increasing or changing anything in relation to our running.

Minimising your risk of injury Factors that predispose us to running injuries can be categorise as intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic factors are things such as gender, age, weight, height, body alignment, muscular conditioning, and mechanical dysfunction. Extrinsic factors are related to; training errors, running technique, running shoes, and running surfaces.

In this article I’m focusing on the extrinsic factors, as these can be influence by you and can really help in reducing your risk of injury.

Here are some key things to consider to help minimise your risk of getting injured:

Training Errors

  • One of the most common training error is suddenly increasing your mileage or returning to your previous mileage too quickly after a break, try sticking to a maximum increase of 10% per week.
  • Continuous high mileage and running for a year without a break from training has also been found to increase the risk of injury. Remember to have an easy week every 3 to 4 weeks where you decrease mileage and intensity, and at least 2 weeks off from running every year.
  • High intensity training with inadequate recovery between sessions, or a single severe race or event such as a marathon, can also put you at a high risk of injury. So the more preparation you do at the correct intensity the lower your risk of injury.

Running Technique

  • Good running technique will minimise the amount of force put through the lower body, this has a big impact on lower leg injuries.
  • Two common faults are striking too hard with your heels and over-striding.
  • Having a ‘positive running posture’ will help improve your running technique and efficiency. To improve your running technique I recommend seeking advice from a qualified coach, personal trainer or therapist that specialises in running.

Running Shoes

  • Make sure you’re wearing trainers with the appropriate support for you, having a gait analysis at your local running shop and getting trainers that are specifically for running is a good idea.
  • Worn out trainers have a reduction in shock absorption by 30-50% after running 400km/250 miles in them. This is especially important if you heel strike and run on roads, so if you’ve been running in the same trainers for a long time treat yourself to some new ones (your legs will thank you for it).

Running Terrain/Surface

  • Running downhill will increase the amount of stress on your knees, this can increase the risk of injuries such as ‘runners knee’.
  • Running up hill will put excessive stress on the achilles tendon and calf, which can increase the risk of injuries such as ‘achilles tendinitis’.
  • Due to the increase in force related to hill running, I recommended you strengthen the lower body before adding hills to your training, then gradually integrate hills to your running.
  • Research has found a sudden change in running surfaces, i.e. treadmill to road, and running on a cambered surface can also increase your risk of injury. So if you’re changing running surfaces make sure it’s gradual, and again make sure you strengthen and condition your lower body before running on uneven surfaces.

I hope this has given you some food for thought, look out for future blogs where I will be looking at individual factors in more depth.