Preventing Running Injuries

Laura Mitchell's picture
By Laura Mitchell on May 4, 2017

Did the recent Blue Ridge Marathon inspire you to start running?

Are you considering a “couch-to-5K” as a way to improve your health?

Whether you are just getting started or training for an ultra-marathon, running is a great way to challenge your body and improve your state of mind. It can also be an easy way to get hurt.

Sports medicine experts recommend seeking advice from your health care provider before you begin any exercise program to ensure that your training plan is appropriate for your fitness level. 

Mark Kasmer, M.D., is a sports medicine specialist with Carilion Clinic’s Institute of Orthopaedics and Neurosciences. An avid runner himself, Dr. Kasmer heads up the Blue Ridge Marathon’s medical team and gives regular talks to the running community on preventing, identifying and treating injuries.

Running injuries can range from blisters to stress fractures. They most commonly affect the hip, knee and ankle joints, as well as the soft tissues—muscles, tendons and ligaments—connecting them.

Dr. Kasmer notes that most running injuries can be attributed to training errors, such as running for excessive distances and changing routines. These include:

  • Shin splints and stress fractures
  • Greater trochanteric pain syndrome ("bursitis of the hip")
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome ("runner's knee")
  • IT (iliotibial) band syndrome 
  • Achilles tendinitis and tibial posterior tendinitis
  • Plantar fasciitis

“All overuse running injuries could be classified as training errors,” he said.

To prevent injury, start with the following:

  • Proper nutrition and hydration
  • Adequate rest, both in terms of sleep and recognizing fatigue
  • Stretching
  • Cross-training that includes resistance and strength training
  • Allowing enough recovery time to promote tissue healing 

"Runners of all experience levels are prone to overuse injuries and can benefit from these simple injury prevention techniques," said Dr. Kasmer.

Dr. Kasmer recommends stopping and seeking treatment from your health care provider if running causes significant pain, if your symptoms don’t improve with rest or if either pain or weakness affects your performance.

He offers one more piece of advice: "Remember to always listen to your body."