It’s that time of year again….
The days are getting longer and warmer. Sunshine has finally reappeared. Everyone is dying from allergies. And runners are rejoicing that their eyelashes are no longer freezing when they head out doors to get their fix.
If you’re planning on racing in one of the inaugural runs of summer you are probably well into training mode and your miles are creeping up. It’s inevitable to develop some minor aches and pains as you pound pavement. But when those aches start to turn into something more, you begin to enter the territory of risking a full blown injury. So let’s cover a couple of the most common running injuries and what you can do to if you’re dealing with one.
Plantar Fasciitis– We’ve chatted about this bad boy before, check out a full explanation here. Many people are familiar with PF and the classic pain it produces in the bottom of the heel, typically worse in the morning or taking a step after the foot has been relaxed for a while. The key with treatment is to recognize the issue early and take steps to correct faulty bio-mechanics ASAP. These mechanics could be a run gait with a heel strike followed by a sloppy neutral follow through creating a ‘foot slap’ motion with each step OR it could be landing with a very dorsiflexed (pointed) toe that causes too much stress on the plantar fascia (tricky, right?).
The Fix: Ensure proper running mechanics: keep your feet under you and think of “pulling” yourself forward instead of actively pushing yourself off the ground to propel forward. Get those calves worked out. Make sure you’re in the right shoe. And (maybe a controversial opinion) stay away from hard molded orthotics- these are often incorrect for the situation and may make matters worse.
Achilles Tendinitis– the Achilles is that big ole tendon that is your calf connecting to your heel. When this guy is irritated it typically produces pain in the low calf region or right behind the heel where the tendon attaches. You might also feel the tendon ‘flipping’ or clicking back and forth over your heel bone. Pain in the Achilles typically occurs from landing on your toes and not allowing that heel to gently touch the ground, in effect never actually lengthening the tendon fully.
The Fix: Ensure proper running mechanics (oh, is there a theme here?) keeping your feet relaxed while running and letting the heel touch ground is important. Myofascial work on the calf and Achilles and finally strengthening through the calf and foot. Eccentric calf raises and plyometric exercises are a couple of my favs.
Iliotibial Band Pain– we’ve covered this one too, check out everything you’re dying to know about ITB pain here. The ITB is a long fibrous band that runs from your hip bone to your knee. It has a tendency to get tight producing a deep, dull ache along the outside of the leg and into the knee. Pain typically comes and goes during your run and you may feel it more running down hills. This is always an issue of a compensation pattern arising somewhere else in the body. Typically a glute has gotten lazy and now the ITB is trying to help stabilize or the quads are so tight they’re not doing their shock absorbing job anymore thus putting more stress on the ITB.
The Fix: (yes, running mechanics) and myofasical release techniques through the glutes, quads, calf complex and actual ITB. Developing a strengthening program for areas of weakness is also key. Typically honing in on the glutes, abductors and foot strength are helpful.
Have you dealt with any of these issues previously? What worked best for you?
If you currently find yourself trying to ‘just run through it’ my advice is this: if you’ve been thinking about a painful area for 3 or more days it’s time to enlist some outside help to take care of it. Chiropractic sports physicians and physical therapists are trained to deal with these soft tissue injuries and can get you back on the road quickly. As always, proper diagnosis is key to your treatment.
Dr. Katie Clare, DC, CCSP, ART
Dauntless Sport & Spine Clinic
4510 W. 77th St, Edina, MN 55435