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Train Without Pain: Avoid These Common Running Injuries - Antsy Labs

Train Without Pain: Avoid These Common Running Injuries

Pushing yourself past the 5k to a new race distance this year? You’re not alone! Millions of runners will be signing up for races this year as they test their limits and go beyond the 5k to the 10k, half-marathon, and marathon distances.

(Of course, there are ultramarathons, too, but those people are insane in the best kind of way.)

Setting a new goal race for yourself can be a great way to motivate your training, stay in shape, and even justify a vacation. Some of my personal favorite trips have been centered around trail runs in the Vegas desert, North Carolina woods, and Northern California hills.


You’ll earn these IRLAs when you cross certain finish lines, each race bringing you a step closer to where you want to be. But the more finish lines you cross, the more you’ll see how running goes well beyond racing. Some days are race days, but every day can be a run day.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s lace-up and let loose.

Whether we actually get to the starting line of our new, longer race, though, can be another story.

When you trained for a 5k race, your longest training runs might have been about an hour. If you’re now aiming for a half-marathon, you could be running up to two hours straight. For a marathon, that might even creep up to three or three and a half hours.

With shorter distances, we don’t always notice our little pains and problems. The way our shoes or socks fit, for example, might be easy to ignore for 20-30 minutes. Our running form might not cause us discomfort when we’re training twice a week. Our skipped warm-up routine might not have a noticeable impact when we’re running 10 miles a week.

Now that you’re running longer, you could be at a higher risk for some common running injuries. Yet the rewards of those runs (your goals! your health! your vacation!) are well worth it. 

That’s why today we’re going to look at some of the common causes for running injuries, how to identify those injuries, and the best ways to recover so you can have your most enjoyable running year yet!

Common Causes For Running Injuries

The most common cause for running injuries? Running.

Sadly, running injuries do all have running at their root. The more we run, the more we put stress, impact, and overexertion on the table. Issues we may not have noticed before become more exposed the more time we spend on our feet.

Before we get into the specific types of running injuries, let’s get clear on a few common causes for running injuries that can result in a variety of pains.

  • Increasing training intensity too quickly - Your body needs time to adapt to more mileage. When you increase their training intensity too quickly, that’s extra stress on the bones and muscles that can lead to pain. As a rule of thumb, Runners World suggests a 10-15% weekly increase in total mileage.

  • Poor running form - If you favor one side of your body over another, are compensating for pain in one area,  or have an imbalance in your stride, an increase in training can make those issues more pronounced.

  • Running on hard surfaces - Running on hard surfaces without proper cushioning can put extra stress on the bones and joints, increasing the risk of stress fractures and plantar fasciitis.

  • Having a deficiency in certain nutrients - Nutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of calcium or vitamin D, can lead to an increased risk of stress fractures.

  • Wearing shoes with inadequate support - If your foot isn’t properly supported, the extra mileage you’re running can put more stress on the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, increasing the risk of plantar fasciitis.

  • Wearing shoes that are too tight or too loose - Shoes that fit improperly can put pressure on the nerves in the foot and increase the risk of blisters, neuromas, and other pains.

Common Running Injuries By Body Area

Each of the causes above can lead to a number of pains, some acute and some more gradual. Below, we’re grouping common injuries by body area, including foot & ankle, muscle, lower leg, and knee, to help you get a sense for what might be bothering you.

Feet & Ankle Injuries

These are a few of the most common injuries that you’ll feel in your feet – including ball, arch, and heel – and ankles. Apart from blisters, which can appear during a single run, most of these develop over time.

  • Blisters - These may be the easiest to diagnose, and the most annoying to deal with. Blisters are small, fluid-filled areas on the skin that can be caused by friction, heat, or moisture. They are common in runners who wear shoes that don't fit properly, have socks that don’t wick away sweat, or who run on rough surfaces.

  • Plantar fasciitis - This is a common foot injury that causes pain in the heel and bottom of the foot. Signs include pain that is more pronounced during your first steps during the day, and pain that goes away during exercise. Plantar fasciitis can be caused by wearing shoes with inadequate support or by running on hard surfaces without proper cushioning.

  • Stress fractures - These are small cracks in the bones that can occur due to overuse or impact. They are common in runners who increase their training intensity too quickly or who have poor running form.

  • Neuromas - These are benign tumors that develop in the nerve tissue of the foot. They can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the toes.

Muscle Injuries

These are common muscle injuries. They can happen in a single run, as is the case with a strain, or they can develop from overuse.

  • Hamstring strains - These are tears or strains in one of the muscles in the back of the thigh, and they often result from overstriding before muscles are warmed up.

  • Quadriceps strains - These tears or strains happen in the front of the thigh. Typically they come from more abrupt or sudden movements, and also stem from overuse, lack of flexibility, or an improper warmup.

  • Calf strains - Occurring in the muscles in the lower leg, a calf strain comes most often from an increase in training, specifically with speed or hill work.

  • Groin strains - While these are less common with traditional running, if you are incorporating cross-training like yoga or strength training, this can lead to a strained groin.

  • Hip flexor strains - This pain at the hip joint is most directly related to overuse. If you are adding on significant mileage without taking the time to properly warm up or stretch, you could be feeling this in your hips. 

Lower Leg Running Injuries

The increased time on your feet can lead to some overuse injuries in your lower legs and joints. 

In addition to stress fractures and calf strains above, here are two other common ones: 

  • Shin splints - This is a term used to describe pain in the front of the lower leg when stress on the muscles and connective tissues around the tibia results in a painful sensation in the shin. It is often caused by overuse or improper running form.

  • Achilles tendinitis - This is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone. It can be caused by overuse, improper footwear, or a lack of flexibility.

Knee Injuries

One of the most common spots for running injuries is the knee. While all injuries should be taken seriously, injuries to the knee deserve special attention. 

  • Runner's knee - This is a term used to describe pain around the kneecap and can be caused by overuse, weakness in the hips or quadriceps, or improper running form.

  • IT band syndrome - This is a condition that causes pain on the outside of the knee and can be caused by weakness in the hips or poor running form.

  • Patellar tendinitis - This is an inflammation of the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap to the shinbone. It can be caused by overuse or improper running form.

Typical Recovery Time For Common Running Injuries

Recovery time for running injuries depends on how severe the pain is, how long you’ve been dealing with it, and whether you want to keep running while you recover.

While the best course of action is to consult your doctor or physician about a recovery plan, below we’re sharing some ranges for recovery times for common running injuries. 

  • Stress fractures - According to OrthoInfo, a stress fracture will take between six and eight weeks to heal. Impact activities like running and walking aren’t recommended, so you may want to look into cross-training like swimming or cycling.

  • Plantar fasciitis - Speaking from personal experience, plantar fasciitis isn’t worth messing around with. As WebMD shares, it can take 6-12 months to fully recover. Since it is a chronic issue, recovery also takes a correspondingly long time.

  • IT band syndrome - Recovery from an IT band syndrome issue can take between four to eight weeks, says Healthline. That recovery can be aided by switching to low impact exercise.

  • Shin splints - When treated well, shin splints can go away within a few weeks. Exercise can be continued, but you should wait to run until the pain subsides.

  • Runner's knee - Depending on the severity of the pain, runner’s knee can go away within one to three weeks. This guide from the American Trail Running Association can help you guide your recovery.

  • Achilles tendinitis - As the largest tendon in your body, the achilles can take a minute to recover. Expect a minimum of a few weeks of rest to recover from achilles tendinitis – and no running. Should it get worse, you may need to consider physical therapy or some other more serious options, including surgery.
  • Hamstring strain - This depends on the grade of the strain. A mild muscle pull (grade 1) could feel better in a few days. Tears, on the other hand, can take weeks and even months to fully recover from

Keep In Shape While Recovering From Injury

We started this blog with the idea that you may have gotten your running injury because you’re pushing yourself to take on a new race.

Does your injury mean you have to cancel your race? Not necessarily! While it’s not advisable to stick to your running plan as it was, there are still a few steps you can take to stay in good shape.

If you’re worried about losing all your gains, there’s some scientific studies to comfort you. Breaks of up to two weeks show almost no loss in VO2 max (your ability to transport and use oxygen during exercise). As far as the physical components, you may notice a loss of performance after about 10 days or so. 

Here are four things you can do to help keep up your fitness levels while you recover:

  • Listen to your body - It’s possible you may not have been paying close enough attention to some aches and pains that became full-blown injuries, so now is the time to tune in again to your body’s needs. If you experience any setbacks, it may be necessary to reduce your training intensity or take additional time to rest and recover.

  • Cross-train - If running is not an option due to injury (and it likely shouldn’t be!), try to find other forms of exercise that can help you stay in shape. This may include swimming, cycling, or using an elliptical machine. Weight training can also be a good way to strengthen the areas of the body around where your injury is.

  • Strengthen and stretch - In addition to cross-training, it is important to continue to stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the injured area. This can help to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of re-injury once you are able to return to running. If you haven’t yet, consider adding a dynamic stretching routine to your workout.

  • Gradually return to running - Recovery from a running injury is continuous, not discrete. Even if you wake up one day not feeling pain, you do still need to get your body back to the shape it was in prior to the injury. Once you are cleared to return to running, start with short distances and gradually increase the distance and intensity over time.

Getting Back On Your Feet

As lifelong runners who’ve dealt with their share of injuries, there is a real thrill getting back to pain-free runs. Just know that you have years of running left, and there is no single race that justifies jeopardizing all of that good running and exploring time.

If you’re looking for another way to motivate yourself during your recovery, check out our IRLA Running Pack. This collection of unlockable real-life achievements include running a mile, a 5k race, a 10k race, a half marathon race, and a marathon race. Plus, they’ll pair perfectly with your race finisher’s medal!


You’ll earn these IRLAs when you cross certain finish lines, each race bringing you a step closer to where you want to be. But the more finish lines you cross, the more you’ll see how running goes well beyond racing. Some days are race days, but every day can be a run day.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s lace-up and let loose.

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