When you go running, which of the following do you do:

  • Stretch before and after you run.
  • Increase the length of your run over the span of weeks.
  • Choose shoes that are the right fit for your feet and terrain.
  • Land on the ball of your foot with each step, not toes.
  • Look or gaze straight ahead of you, and not down at the ground.
  • Keep your shoulders straight, instead of hunching.

If you’ve said ‘yes’ to more than three of the above statements, then you are well on your way to practicing ways of running that don’t lead to injury. While we want it to be a painless, enjoyable experience, running does cause a spectrum of injuries, even for the most experienced runners. In fact, the longer and faster you run, the more are your aches and pains.

Notice, we said a spectrum of injuries. Which means that not every ache is severe. For beginners, the body isn’t used to the stress of running or its repetitive motion. So, the muscles and joints react to it. Over time, this may get better. But, if the pain persists, seek help. Here is what could be happening to you:

  1. Runner’s Knee. This is also known as Chondromalacia patella – pain behind and around the knee cap. “This injury is usually due to movements that load the knee joint on a flexed position,” says Kim Kaiser, Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine at University of Kentucky. Why does it happen? The muscles in the inner quads are weak and cause the knee cap to strike against the joint of the knee.
  2. Plantar Fasciitis. Sometimes when you wake up in the morning and take the first few steps, there could be a stabbing pain in the base of your heel. It may take 15-20 steps to settle. That happens when the Plantar Fascia gets stretched. It’s a group of connective tissues that run along the sole of the foot from the toes to the heel. Their sole job is to support the arch of the foot, helping us walk or run. Though designed to take pressure, they could get inflamed due to weak hip muscles, sudden intense activity, and poor running mechanics.
  3. Achilles Tendonitis. Studies show that upto 20% of runners experience this kind of pain. What is it? The inflammation or irritation of the largest tendon in our body, which connects our calf muscles to our heel, helping us walk, run, or jump. With a sudden increase in the intensity or frequency of activity like running or workouts, this tendon gets strained, leading to stiffness in the heels and calves, swelling, and severe pain.

While shining light on common injuries like the ones listed here, our intention is not to demotivate you from running. Instead, we urge you to adopt practices like stretching before and after running. Or using shoes that are designed for it. Or attending to aches when they begin. All these can go a long way in preventing long term injuries. What’s the first step you’d like to take towards better running health?