Common Running Injuries…
In an ideal runner’s world, every step of every mile would be 100 percent pain-free. The reality is that many runners constantly deal with a slight (or not so slight) disturbance—a tender foot, a tight hamstring, a pain in the Achille’s tendon, a whiny knee.
Think of running pains in terms of a spectrum. At one end you have severe, full-blown injuries—call it the red zone- which includes stress fractures that require time off. The other end, where you’re in top form, is the green zone. Mild, transient aches that bug you one day, and disappear the next, sit closer to the green end. Unfortunately, many runners get stuck in the middle—the not-quite-injured but not-quite-healthy yellow zone.
Whether you land in the red, linger in the yellow, or return to the green end of the spectrum depends largely on how you react when that first stab of pain hits. You can reduce your risk of ending up in the red zone if, at the first sign of an issue, you back off your mileage, reduce the intensity of your runs, start a treatment program, and develop a proactive long-term injury-prevention strategy, such as strength training, stretching, and regular foam-rolling. Therapy is like homework, none of us like having to do it, but if you don’t do it, the issue will come back.
The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes irritated (tendinitis). It makes up 11 percent of all running injuries; and can also be affected by tight plantar fascia and by switching to a more minimalist shoe too quickly or without the proper intrinsic foot strengthening exercises.
WHO’S AT RISK?
Runners who dramatically increase training (especially hills and speedwork) and have tight, weak calves are vulnerable, or those switching to a minimalist shoe without the proper preparation.
CAN YOU RUN THROUGH IT?
If you have any pain during or after running, stop. This is not an injury to run through. If you catch a minor strain early, a few days off might be sufficient healing time. If you keep running as usual, you could develop a serious case that may take six months to go away.
Five times a day, apply ice. Strengthen the calves with eccentric heel drops: Stand with the balls of your feet on a step. Rise up on both feet. Once up, take your stronger foot off the step. Lower down on your injured foot, dropping your heel below the step. Rise back up while returning your other foot to the step. Do 20 reps but these should only be done after treatment to release any injury. Pool-run, use an elliptical machine, and swim, but avoid cycling unless it’s not painful.
PREVENT A RELAPSE
Strong calves protect your Achilles from flare-ups, so do heel drops daily. Avoid aggressive calf stretching and wearing flip-flops and high heels, all of which can irritate the Achilles.
Active Release Technique® or Functional Range Release® are necessary to get rid of any scar tissue buildup in the Achilles, calf or plantar fascia if this injury is not caught in the early stages.
Ankle Alert: How to Proceed
Severe pain and swelling above your heel, even when not running. Standing up on your toes causes pain.
Dull pain around your heel at the end of your run that lingers afterward but goes away when iced.
No pain when you pinch the tendon, starting at the heel and working your way up toward your calf.