The open path spreads in front of you, cool and quiet. Your feet pound the ground as you feel a rush of excitement and energy. Many avid runners are familiar with this sensation—the joy of hitting the trail. Millions of Americans run regularly. Some run on their own for fun and fitness, while others compete in timed races. Although it’s a healthy activity, the repetitive pounding can take a toll on your lower limbs, potentially leading to running injuries.
The Downsides to Pounding the Pavement
Running is great for the body. It can help you lose weight, improve circulation, strengthen the lower limbs, and stimulate the brain. It can even reduce your risks for certain diseases, like heart issues, diabetes, and strokes. Like any activity, though, there are potential downsides. Frequent, repetitive foot strikes put a lot of strain on the feet, ankles, and shins. This can overwork the limbs and lead to painful injuries. Accidents can happen on the trails, too, damaging your feet.
These running injuries can sideline you and force you to take time off to recover. In most cases, “running through it” will make the problem far worse than the original condition. The best way to deal with these issues is to catch and manage them when they first appear.
Common Issues Runners Face
Any type of foot pain could interrupt your regular jog. Some running injuries, however, are particularly common and affect many runners:
Achilles Tendinitis – This is essentially inflammation and irritation in your foot’s main mover, the Achilles tendon. The overuse issue usually develops when your lower limbs aren’t conditioned to handle the intensity of your run.
Ankle Sprain – Usually an accident, you get an ankle sprain when your foot twists suddenly and sharply to the side. The motion overstretches the stabilizing ligaments, leaving them painfully weak and unstable.
Plantar Fasciitis – The most common cause of heel pain, plantar fasciitis is a thickening, irritation, and swelling in the tissue band that runs the length of your sole. It only gets worse with time and can sharply limit your ability to run.
Shin Splints – This is an overuse injury that creates a burning pain in your shins whenever you’re active. Typically they develop when your feet aren’t well-conditioned, or faulty biomechanics stress the lower limbs.
Stress Fractures – When your feet are fatigued, they don’t absorb shock well. This can lead to your bones absorbing much of the energy from your foot strikes, which can crack bone and create stress fractures.
There are plenty of other problems runners deal with, too, like blisters, metatarsalgia, and flatfoot pain. No matter the injury, you’ll need to invest in proper care to eliminate the discomfort and get back to running safely.
Managing Your Running Injuries
The sooner you address whatever is causing pain, the sooner you can eliminate it and return to running. You’ll need to have your lower limbs examined so they can be accurately diagnosed. Dr. Brandon S. Percival, Dr. Julie A. Percival, and Dr. William Harris will use a variety of tests to determine the exact problem that is giving you trouble. Then we can help you establish a treatment plan to eliminate the issue.
The specific treatment will vary based on what running injury you have. Most likely you’ll need to rest and, yes, take a break from your running so you can heal. Foot massages, physical therapy stretches and exercises, padded inserts, shoe changes, and orthotics are all common conservative ways to manage limb pain from running. Very rarely are injuries significant enough to need some kind of surgery.
If you’re a runner, chances are high that you’ll develop one or more running injuries at some point in time. You don’t have to let that limit you, though. Our team at Carolina Podiatry Group in Fort Mill and Lancaster, SC, can help stay safe, strong, and pain-free on the trail. Contact our office for an appointment today. You can reach us through our website or by calling (803) 548-FEET for Fort Mill or (803) 285-1411 for Lancaster.