Injuries from Running

Running creates stress and is thus destructive. Our bodies respond to the stress by strengthening themselves. However, this strengthening does not occur during the running; it occurs during rest after the running. Thus, to prevent injuries, we must have sufficient rest that our bodies can strengthen themselves and eliminate the stress. If we don't have sufficient rest, residues of stress remain and accumulate, and eventually this stress will cause injuries. Many running injuries can be avoided if we have sufficient rest, if we keep our training within the capabilities of our bodies to handle stress, and if we stretch to strengthen our muscles. For suggestions on preventing injuries, see my page Preventing Injury.

In this section, I am giving descriptions of common running injuries; the descriptions are paraphrases from The Runners Repair Manual, by Dr. Murray F. Weisenfeld, and from various web sites. Because that book is copyrighted and is still being sold, I will not give the stretch exercises and treatment that Weisenfeld recommends for the injuries. The book can be purchased for less than $11 at Amazon.


The RICE procedure can be used for several days after an injury to reduce swelling, to control pain, and to promote healing.

R - Rest
I - Ice
C - Compression
E - Elevation

Rest to allow your body to begin the healing process. Stop all activities that cause pain.

Ice for 15 or 20 minutes at a time during the first 24 - 48 hours after the injury; keep a cloth between the ice and your skin. Icing helps reduce swelling.

Compress the injured muscles with an elastic bandage. This helps reduce swelling.

Elevate the injury area to increase blood circulation. Raise the injured part above the heart. Increased blood circulation helps increase healing.


Running injuries come from stress, and this site gives traditional ways of reducing the stress. In addition, there are alternative ways of reducing stress. One alternative is meditation. The National Institutes of Health has a center for alternative medicine, and the NIH page for that center gives a good introduction to mediation. In addition, the University of Wisconsin has reported that meditation changes the brain and helps persons to have more compassion and empathy towards others.

Anatomical terms

If you're like me and aren't familiar with anatomical terms, refer to Arnold's Glossary of Anatomy.

Common Running Injuries

The folks at have created a graphic that illustrates the common injuries that runners experience. Here is the introductory paragraph from that site, followed by the graphic.

Despite all its benefits, running isn’t without risk. Every year, 36 million people in the United States run, and 40% to 50% of them suffer at least one running injury. It’s not uncommon for a runner to trip and fall, sustaining cuts and scrapes, and sometimes even broken bones. And if you don’t wear the right shoes, you can get some pretty nasty blisters. But the more common running injuries are those that come from running itself.

Your body is like any piece of machinery. The more you use it, the more wear and tear it endures, and that wear sometimes manifests as injuries. The more often and the longer distance you run, the higher the probability you’ll suffer a running injury. You also become more susceptible to running injuries as you age. Even kids suffer running injuries at a rate of about 16,000 per year. In addition, it’s not just outdoor runners who get injured. Running on a treadmill requires just as much care and preparation to avoid running injuries.

This diagram shows some of the most common running injuries, how to treat them, and how to avoid them altogether. If you do suffer a running injury, there are alternative exercises you can do with other fitness accessories while you recover. The most important thing to remember is, if your running injury is serious, don’t hesitate to see a doctor. Better to have it treated immediately than have it become a chronic condition that impairs your running forever.

Click on the image to see a larger view.


Karen said...

I have been training for a 1/2 marathon since September. I have exercised regularly for the past several years, just never much of a runner. I was following a plan from runners world magazine but have had pain in my left knee, calf and foot. Now my shin seems to hurt. I've tried taking a week off from running, but return with the same pains. My race is 30 days away. Do I stop running for a while, run less or give up on this race? I am heartbroken.

Allen said...

Hi Karen,

I'm awfully sorry to hear about your injuries. Getting injured is a disappointment, because it usually means you'll have to change your plans to accommodate the healing of your body.

You asked, "Do I stop running for a while, run less or give up on this race?" Yes, you'll probably have to do all three. The first thing you should do is use the RICE treatment when you feel pain in your body. RICE is explained in the page to which these comments are posted, Injuries from Running'. Stopping running for a week or so is good, because it helps your body start the healing process. However, after a week or so of complete rest from running, don't just go back to your previous routine, because your injuries, as you discovered, will likely come back. Running less is good because it helps your body to continue its healing process.

I'm not a doctor and can only offer suggestions, but this is what I would suggest.

I don't know if you've been stretching after each run. There are two types of stretches. Ones that loosen muscles and ones that strengthen muscles. Stretching for both reasons is absolutely necessary if you are to be free from injuries. Here are the stretches I do before each run. After each run I do the ones for calves, quads, hams, ITB, & shins.

Take another week off from running. During that week, use RICE several times a day for about 10 minutes at a time.

At the end of the week, see if you can walk for a mile or so without pain. If so, do that every other day for a week. If not, try walking for half a mile or one-fourth of a mile without pain.

After you've found the distance you can walk with no pain, walk it two or three times a week for a couple of weeks. Then if the pain hasn't returned, increase the distance slightly. Slightly means 10% increase or less. If the pain does return, go back to the distance you were doing with out pain and do that for another week. Then, do a smaller increase. If you have no pain from the smaller increase, then do that new distance for a week or two. If you do have pain from the smaller increase, then drop back for a week and then do an even smaller increase.

The idea is to not have pain during your training. Pain is not normal. It is a sign from your body that something is wrong. In many if not most cases, runners have injuries because they run too far or too fast or both. This is known as overuse. The danger from trying to follow a training plan from a book or a web site is that the plan may not "fit" your body very well, and you need to modify the plan to fit your body. Modifying the plan usually means taking more time to complete the plan by running shorter distances and making smaller increases in distance.

Our bodies are slow in healing themselves. It is hard to do, but we need to focus on healing our injuries and to forget about races.

I have a friend in Las Vegas who has run the past 8 LV Marathons. He was two days away from running his 9th LV Marathon when he bumped his knee. He took a week off and then tried to jog. He did a mile without pain. He did that for a week and then tried 2 miles, but the pain returned after 1.7 miles. This is a guy who could knock off 20-milers like they were a walk in the park, and now he can only do 1.7 miles. I don't know how fast his knee will heal, but it will probably be quite a while before he runs another marathon.

Four years ago I was in an auto accident and spent three weeks in the ICU. I had to learn to walk again. First in a wheel chair, then with a walker, then a cane and then by myself. After I left the hospital, my wife and I walked for a month and I got up to one mile. Then, I tried to jog and could only go 1/4 mile before I had to stop from being tired. During the next year I had surgery for a double hernia, surgery over a six-month period for 10 skin cancers, one surgery left a hole in my head as big around as a golf ball and 1/4 inch wide. I also had my gall bladder removed. It took me two years to get back to the half-marathon distance. I'm not suggesting that it will take that long for you to get ready for your half marathon. I'm just suggesting that your priority must be on getting yourself healed. Other phases of running must be put on hold. But, be assured that these injuries will pass, and if you stick with it you will complete your half-marathon.

Spend some time browsing through the links in my archive. I have a lot of interesting pages in this site. Be sure and read the page on preventing injuries from running. Also read my shoe page, because having the wrong shoes is a common cause of injury.

Pain Free Runner said...

I had to stop running because of the pain in my knee due to patellofemoral syndrome (runners knee) and because of a chance meeting at a business lunch I am running again pain free. I met a lady who invented a rehabilitate knee brace that helped her get out of a wheelchair. The knee brace realigns the upper and lower leg, relieves pain and retrains the muscles of the knee. I wear knee brace when I run and when I am physically active and have not had any pain or swelling. The brace is call In the Groove and I ordered it on the website: The brace stopped my pain and I wanted to pass this information on so others can continue to run pain free.