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The challenges faced by a runner.

Updated: Oct 17, 2017

The characteristics of the “average” runner have changed greatly since the introduction of the modern running shoe. In the past 30 years running has changed from something done by trained runners who competed for sport, to an activity that is enjoyed by the masses.

It is the hope of many a runner to lace up a new pair of brightly coloured running shoes and feel the aches and pains of running melt away. Running with worn out or old running shoes means you're inviting a host of potential injuries, any one of which can adversely affect your performance.

Whenever you are out running and your foot hits the floor, a force of approximately 3 times your own bodyweight travels from the impact point through the muscle, fascia and bones of the foot, ankle, lower leg, knee, upper leg, hip and gluteals, lower spine, mid spine, upper spine to your head. With that in mind, if you have a foot that strikes incorrectly or misaligned then you are open to a host of potential injuries and complaints anywhere along that chain of body parts.

Along with the impact and stress there is the footwear issue that is also faced by the everyday runner. Old and worn out shoes simply won't distribute the force as evenly as a shoe that isn't worn out; And then there is the issue of what type of trainer do you wear... High arch support, support for an inverted or everted foot? Barefoot running?

Aside of the other challenges runners face by far the most damaging is not doing enough injury prevention. Most athletes rely heavily on their legs, so you'd think keeping them in good condition would be high up on the priority list. This definitely is not the case with most runners. At Body Solve the amount of runners, triathletes, IronMen, along with many other sports, men and women who don't take any preventative injury measurements with regards to often the most vital piece of kit (their legs) is astonishing. It doesn't stop at the athlete however, hobbyists and occupationally stressed individuals are also on the most wanted list here and are not getting off that lightly.

We train, work and play hard but we do nothing to prevent injury. When is the last time you spent an hour, three times a week to do some injury prevention?

For this very reason a lot of athletes end up in the clinic having Osteopathy or Sports Therapy, but by that point the damage is usually done, the injury has already occurred and most of the time treatment is an easy fix. One in ten however is often a little more serious and can take a lot longer to fix, meaning training and possibly events and races are affected.

By incorporating a healthy injury prevention maintenance plan into your weekly routine you can save yourself the frustration, setback, missed PB and money that an injury will cause you.

The following medical problems are what we would consider to be the most common foot injuries associated with running and the everyday athlete:

1. Blisters -

By far the most common problem that people face when running is blisters. You can wear moisture wicking socks, buy the perfect shoes, and try and keep your feet as dry as possible but sometimes it is just impossible to prevent blisters from developing. One thing that many people don't realise is that blisters come in different forms depending on what is inside of the blister. Most commonly blisters are either filled with a clear fluid or with blood. Runners can be freaked out to look down at their shoes at the end of a race and see blood but it may just have been a blood blister that popped while running. Blisters come in all shapes, sizes, and locations.

3.Subungual Hematoma -

This is a medical term for blood under the nail. This commonly occurs to runners from repeated pounding of their nail against the front of their shoe, especially in a tight shoe. It also commonly occurs when patients have a little piece of bone that protrudes up into their nail bed that irritates the nail when pressure is applied.

3. Shin Splints -

Swelling of the two tendons along your shin linking your knee to your foot; It is also known as shin splints. One of the most common causes of this injury is running in old shoes that lack adequate shock absorption, or in shoes that are unevenly worn and lack stability. It can also be caused by an imbalance within the pelvis which then causes people to distribute the weight unevenly when they run, causing overuse and inflammation of these muscles. Icing the shin, taking aspirin or ibuprofen and stretching will help relieve the pain. Replacing your worn-out shoes will help eliminate the cause of the injury, keep it from growing into a chronic condition and prevent a relapse.

4. Plantar Fasciitis - This is a very common problem that occurs not only in runners but also in non-runners. Plantar fasciitis is one of the man causes of heel pain and is caused by irritation and swelling of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot (the plantar fascia). This is often a chronic condition, so runners will usually have this throughout their training but this can become extremely painful after a race. Excess sprinting, increase in distance/intensity of training, strapping on unsupportive footwear can be the culprits here.

5. Runner's Knee -

This is a term doctors use when an athlete is suffering from multiple disorders of pain around the kneecap. This injury normally occurs in athletes who take part in excessive knee-bending activities like biking, running, jogging and walking. The most common cause of runner's knee is a change in biomechanics (the way you move). Running in shoes that don't protect you enough, or shoes that are worn out, pelvic imbalance, poor foot and ankle mobility, glute weakness are all contributors to causing poor biomechanics. One or all of these factors could cause or contribute to runners knee, therefore it is important to understand which is causing the issue and working to resolve it.

6. Ankle Sprain -

Ankle sprain is one such injury that almost everyone has to face at least once in a lifetime. It is more likely to happen to athletes as they exercise for many hours in a day. It happens when ankle ligaments get torn or stretched due to a sudden change in movement, causing the foot to roll (usually inward). As a result, this tearing or stretching causes intense pain and left untreated without appropriate are it can leave an athlete out of running and with reoccurring issues for many years to come.

7. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB) -

It deals with pain that occurs on the outer surface of the knee due to heavy exercise. The IT band, on the side, upper region of the thigh, gets inflamed mainly because of increasing the running length too fast, running on uneven surfaces and exercising with the wrong shoes. Tight calf muscles, having a naturally flat foot, improper footwear or that dreaded pelvic imbalance are all contributors to ITB syndrome. In order to sidestep this pain, make sure that you stretch before and post workout, wear supportive shoes, increase and taper training accordingly and have regular treatment.

If you are an aspiring athlete, then you will surely come across these injuries in the future. Replacing your running shoes can help you avoid injuries if you know when to do it; generally, you should replace your shoes after running in them for a maximum of 500 miles. Turn your shoes over every now and then and look to see if the sole is lined, or if cracks are forming. That's a good indication your shoes need replacing.

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