I got a comment/question last week from a follower of my Facebook page who is fairly new to running and is dealing with some leg pain. As we roll into spring, more and more people are going to head outside to start running. Whether we're experienced runners building into a race season, or newer runners whipping our bodies into shape for the summer, injuries can and will happen if we're not careful.

Rather than give my two cents about running and injury prevention, I thought I'd go a step further and ask a couple people who I know and respect in the running community who could give you some great tips about running injuries/injury prevention and finding the right running shoe for your body/gate. I asked Mike Kelly, avid runner and physical therapist with Nova Care and Paul Rosenblum, owner of Running Away Multisport to address these areas. Here is what they said.

Mike's advice to new and everday runners about injuries.
As temperatures increase, many individuals will pull the running shoes out of the closet and go for a “long run.”  There are 5k races, 8k races, and marathons to train for!   During the course of training and running, there is actually a chance that you can have some degree of injury.  Commonly cited research data reveals that 24-70% of runners will report an injury if running regularly.

Quick trivia question:  What is the most significant difference between running and walking?   The answer: when you are running you are on one leg, and when walking you will always have two legs on the ground!   Running can be considered a series of controlled falls.   When you are running, you need much more strength, postural control, and your tissues need to be prepared to respond to this stress.

Based on this, what are the 3 ways a runner can become injured?  1.  Poor Equipment.  Make sure that those shoes you pull out of the closet have been fit for you at a running store, have less than 400-600 miles on them, and are not older than 6-12 months.  2.  Poor Training.   Increasing your running mileage more than 10-20% from the prior week, not taking days off, or not treating an area of pain are all factors that can increase the chance of injury.  3.  Poor form.    There is a great amount of research addressing the importance of running form and its impact on injury.   Different running form strategies can work for different body types.   It is important to find ways to minimize impact and forces through your lower extremity, and this will help your joints and tissues adapt to change and stress.

When injuries occur, most research shows they occur most often at the knee(~42% of injuries), foot/ankle(~26%) and hip/hamstring(20%).  Any variety of pains, tendonopathies, and muscle/fascial problems can occur, and there is great variance in most runners.   Here is a quick description of the three most common injuries:

1.     Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS):  This diagnosis relates to knee pain, and encompasses a wide variety of knee pains, and can occur from a wide variety of reasons.   PFPS occurs when the relationship between the kneecap and the bone(femur) is causing abnormal rubbing/friction.  Many times IT Band tightness plays a significant role in this injury.  The IT Band is a large piece of tissue that covers the side of the thigh from your hip down to your knee.  When this is too tight or not functioning properly, it will pull your kneecap out of place and the friction between the bones causes pain.  There are a number of other factors that can cause generalized kneecap pain when running.  Poor hip strength has currently been found to be the greatest factor in poor control of the LE and causes PFPS.

2.     Plantar Fasciitis:  When people have pain in their heel or across the arch of their foot, they are usually experiencing this condition.  This occurs when the lining of the sole of your foot has been strained or is causing too much friction.  This lining helps support the arch of your foot, and repetitive stress can strain this tissue and cause pain across the arch.   If untreated, it can also cause repetitive friction across the base of the heel and eventually can cause a painful bone spur.   The importance of shoewear that matches your running pattern is critical to avoid this.   Successful treatment of this condition includes massage, stretching, orthotics, and exercises.   Adapting ones running pattern is also useful.

3.     Shin Splints:  Runners often have pain throughout regions of their lower leg.  If a runner is having pain across the front of the leg, it would be considered Anterior Shin Splints.  This is often from a recent change in training, with a rapid increase in mileage or speed.  Posterior shin splints can occur if an individual has pain on the inner part of the shin, and is often from poor form and repetitive stress.  Stretching, massage, and rest are the most effective treatments for these conditions.

Running injuries can be frustrating, as many individuals have distances and goals they would like to obtain.  How can one avoid these injuries?  It is critical to cross train, and to work on strength and overall conditioning for all runners.    Working with a physical therapist or running coach on running form can also be very important to help prevent injury.   When the injuries do occur, seeking immediate treatment will help prevent the injury from becoming more severe.  Listen to your body and visit a sports medicine specialist if you need to!  Hopefully you don’t and you will have a great running season this year!!


Paul's advice to someone looking for the 'perfect' running shoe. 
Too often people will walk into our running stores and ask us what the best shoe is.  That is a lot like asking an optometrist which glasses in the eyeglass store are the best.  Like eyeglass frames and lenses, there are many different choices of running shoes in the marketplace.  Arguably, each has a place and purpose.  If you go to a reputable run specialty store they can help you narrow your choices.  There are shoes for people with flat feet, high arches, over-pronators, supinators and on and on.  A good shop will look at your feet, ask lots of questions about your intentions and most importantly watch you run.  There is definitely ‘right’ shoe out there for you but it will take a bit of effort working with your salesperson to find it.  Stick with the larger players in the industry and you can be assured of finding a high quality shoe that will help keep you healthy.  Start slow, ease into adding distance and NEVER let your shoes enjoy a birthday!

Thanks very much to Mike and Paul for taking the time to inform us on running, injuries and buying the right shoe.


If you have any tips or suggestions other readers might find useful, go ahead and post them here, or on my Facebook page. FYI - if you're interested in getting healthy by eating right, I'll be doing the the Cereal Bowl Diet Challenge on my Facebook page with a bunch of other people. Join us for the fun and get motivated.