Running is a popular form of exercise, and for good reason. It’s a great way to boost cardiovascular fitness, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce stress.

But it can also be hard on your body, and injuries are common among runners of all levels.

Do all runners feel pain?

Many runners experience knee pain in their lifetime, says Dr Peter Hardcastle, an orthopaedic surgeon at Mediclinic Vergelegen – and it’s not always easy to identify why. “The pain could be caused by several things, such as overuse, structural issues, and even incorrect running technique,” he explains.

The good news: those symptoms don’t necessarily mean you should quit running altogether. With the help of a sports medicine specialist, you can better understand your body and how it adapts to the demands of running.

What are some of the most common running injuries?

“If you love the feel of the open road under your feet, chances are good you’ll have experienced some pain at some point,” agrees Christian Olivier, a podiatrist at Mediclinic Panorama.

Understanding what qualifies as a running injury is important, he emphasises. “An injury that is more likely to either be caused or worsened by running, or a specific problem that affects your ability to run is slightly different. This is what we refer to as a running-related injury, as it is specific to the movements that your feet and legs make during the run.”

Among the most common running injuries are plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendinopathy (formerly known as Achilles tendinitis), runner’s knee, and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, Dr Hardcastle explains:

  • Plantar fasciitis is a very common condition that causes pain in the bottom of the foot, usually around the heel.
  • Shin splints are characterised by pain in the lower leg, typically on the inside of the shin bone.
  • Achilles tendinopathy is a condition that causes pain and swelling in the back of the ankle.
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee) is characterised by pain in the front of the knee, typically under or around the kneecap.
  • IT band syndrome is a condition that causes pain on the outside of the knee.

All of these are preventable, and treatable – with the right help.

Are you listening to the experts?

It’s crucial for long-distance runners to take expert medical advice. Sports medicine specialists can help you improve your running form, manage pre-existing medical conditions, and prevent common running injuries.

Physiotherapists, biokineticists, and podiatrists all help runners stay on track towards their goals by looking at the different ways running takes a toll on the body. 

“For almost any injury related to running, your first course of action should be to stop running and rest,” warns Olivier. “Changing your running habits may be necessary in some cases, and a gait analysis or biomechanical assessment might help a great deal in identifying any potential areas for improvement – it’s best to seek professional help rather than trying to guess what is wrong.”

“Orthopaedic specialists will often refer patients to a physiotherapist to treat these injuries,” says Dr Hardcastle. “The physio will start by doing a comprehensive evaluation. They will then decide on a treatment plan to ease the pain before rehabilitating the knee.”

Ready, set …

Every injury is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort, don’t ignore it; and don’t just listen to advice from fellow runners. It’s important – and much safer – to consult a sports medicine specialist who can develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and get you back running as soon as possible.

Doctors 1

Dr Peter Hardcastle
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