Common Running Injuries with Allison (Physiotherapist)

Allison runs you through the most common running injuries she sees in the clinic as well as treatments and how to prevent them.

Common Running Injuries

Running is a great way to stay fit and healthy, but unfortunately, it’s not without its risks. Running injuries are common, and they can be quite debilitating. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting out, it’s important to know what to look out for and how to prevent running injuries.

The most common running injuries include shin splints, plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, Achilles tendinopathy, and stress fractures. Each injury has its own causes, set of symptoms, and best ways of management.  I’ll briefly outline each of these common injuries so that you can better identify and understand your own injuries.  If you have any questions about a new or ongoing injury, or about how to prevent these injuries in the first place, please book in with a physiotherapist at either the Yarraville or Hampton East studio for a full assessment.

Shin Splints

Starting with shin splints, an injury that almost every runner has experienced at one time or another.  Shin splints occur when the muscles and tendons along the shinbone become inflamed due to overuse.  The symptoms can include pain, swelling, and tenderness along the area.  Treatment in the acute phase typically involves rest, ice, and possibly anti-inflammatory medication.  After the pain settles, the focus of treatment shifts from pain reduction to strengthening the muscles and preventing recurrence.  Gradually increasing your training intensity will help avoid these types of overuse injuries.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the plantar fascia, which is a band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot.  Similarly to shin splints (and most of the other injuries I’m about to discuss), plantar fasciitis is often caused by repetitive stress or overuse.  The symptoms include pain in the heel or arch of the foot, particularly when taking the first steps in the morning.  Some people report that it feels like there’s a pebble in their shoe.  Plantar fasciitis is treated with a combination of mobility and strengthening exercises, and more severe cases may need additional treatment including orthotics or toe spacers, shockwave therapy, dry needling, or another form of manual therapy.  There is a link between reduced collagen production and plantar fasciitis, therefore nutritional input may be warranted.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), AKA runner’s knee, is a common condition among runners that causes pain around the patella or kneecap, stiffness, and a sensation of grinding or clicking in the knee.  It’s typically caused by overuse and poor biomechanics.  The repetitive motion of running puts a lot of stress on the knee joint, and if the muscles around the knee aren’t strong enough to cope with these forces, can cause the patella to become irritated and inflamed.  Treatment for PFPS initially focuses on reducing pain and inflammation with rest, ice, gentle movement, and education.  After which, exercise is used to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee and improve biomechanics.  

IT Band Syndrome

The iliotibial band, or ITB, is a long band of connective tissue that starts at the TFL muscle on the outside of the hip and runs down the side of the leg attaching to the outside of the knee.  This insertion point is typically where people with IT band syndrome report feeling a painful, pulling sensation, which is caused by inflammation and friction between the IT band and the underlying bony structures of the knee.  In runners specifically, IT band syndrome is associated with overuse and poor biomechanics, including weak hip muscles or excessive inward rolling of the foot and knee during running.  Treatment typically involves a period of rest, gentle movement, and education about reducing pain and inflammation.  An individualized exercise program can address muscle imbalances and improve biomechanics to treat and prevent IT band syndrome.  (Notice I didn’t mention foam rolling as a treatment method for IT band syndrome).

Achilles Tendinopathy

Achilles tendinopathy is an inflammatory condition of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel bone.  It is caused by overuse and repetitive stress on the tendon, such as excessive running or jumping, and is commonly seen in runners who suddenly increase their mileage or intensity or who have poor running form.  Symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness in the Achilles tendon, especially in the mornings, or during or after running.  Treatment initially centers on reducing pain and inflammation and restoring range of motion, then transitions to gradual loading of the tendon and strengthening of the calf muscles.  In some cases, it may be necessary to take a closer look at footwear or incorporate orthotics.  

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are tiny cracks or breaks in bone caused by repetitive stress on the bone that exceeds the body’s ability to repair the damage, typically occurring in weight-bearing bones such as the shin, ankle, or foot.  Rapidly increasing training volume or having poor biomechanics can put a runner at a greater risk of acquiring a stress fracture.  Symptoms often include pain and swelling that worsens with activity and improves with rest.  While a physiotherapist can assess for a stress fracture, the gold standard for diagnosis involves an X-ray, MRI, or bone scan.  Treatment typically includes a period of rest and immobilization, to give the bone a chance to repair itself.  After which, mobility and strengthening exercises, as well as training modification with gradual progressions, will help you return to running.

Now it should be obvious that one of the most important things you can do to prevent running injuries is to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. If you’re new to running, don’t try to run a marathon on your first day. Start with short distances and build up over time. It’s also important to warm up properly before each run and cool down afterwards. This can help reduce the risk of injury and improve your overall performance.

Preventing running injuries requires a combination of common sense and good training habits. By taking the time to properly warm up, cool down, and wear the right shoes, you can reduce your risk of injury and enjoy a safe and healthy running experience. And if you do experience an injury, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention and take the time to rest and recover. With a little care and attention, you can keep running injury-free and enjoy all the health benefits that come with this popular activity.

If you have any further questions about anything discussed here, or want more guidance around how to prevent these running injuries, book in to see a physiotherapist at the Yarraville or Hampton East studios for a running assessment and management plan.


Injury Cause Symptoms Treatment Prevention
Shin splints Overuse, rapid increase in training volume, inflammation Pain, swelling, tenderness along shin bone Acute: reduce pain and inflammation

Long term: strengthen tibialis anterior muscle, gradual progression of training

Gradual progression of training volume, strength training
Plantar fasciitis Overuse, rapid increase in training volume, nutritional definiciencies or hormonal changes Pain in the heel or arch of the foot, painful first thing in AM,  Strength and mobility, shockwave therapy, orthotics, manual therapy, lifestyle modification Strengthening of foot and calf muscles, nutrition
Runner’s knee (PFPS) Overuse, rapid increase in training volume, inflammation Pain and stiffness around the kneecap, clicking or grinding within the knee Acute: reduce pain and inflammation

Long term: strengthen quadriceps and other leg muscles, improve biomechanics

Gradual progression of training volume, strength training
IT band syndrome Inflammation and irritation Painful, pulling sensation on outside of knee Acute: reduce pain and inflammation

Long term: strength training, improve biomechanics

Strength training
Achilles tendinopathy Overuse, rapid increase in training volume, inflammation Pain, stiffness, swelling, or tenderness at Achilles tendon, particularly in the AM Acute: reduce pain and inflammation

Long term: gradual reloading of Achilles tendon, strengthen calf muscles

Severe cases: change footwear, orthotics

Gradual progression of training volume, strength training 
Stress fractures Overuse, rapid increase in training volume, nutritional deficiencies Pain and swelling that worsens with activity Acute: rest and immobilization

Long term: mobility and strengthening exercises, training modification

Gradual progression of training volume, strength training