running women

What causes running injuries?

If you run for fun and fitness, you've probably experienced an injury of some sort. Not something serious needing surgery or time off work, but an injury that makes you take it easy for at least a week. If you've had an injury, you may have discovered what caused it; like a sprained ankle from stepping off a curb wrong, but you may also be a bit bewildered. I've had so many clients who have torn their hamstring from running the same track they run everyday. They're confused and frustrated, and they always ask: Why did this happen today? 

What are the most common injuries in women who run?

• Plantas fasciitis
• Knee pain/ITB friction syndrome
• Ankle sprain
• Hip pain
• Calf tear
• Hamstring insertion tear

A common question I get asked is: Why do we get injured?

Many runners run the same tracks, similar distances and in the same footwear, yet get injured, seemingly randomly. However! It turns out these injuries are far from random. Below are the most common reasons for injury in runners…


1.) Sudden changes in training causes injury

One of the main causes of running injuries is rapid alterations in training frequency, duration and intensity.

Why? Your muscles haven’t developed the endurance strength required, leading to increased fatigue, poor foot placement, decreased pelvic stability and eventually….injury.

Let’s look at a scenario. You usually run three times a week, for 10kms, along a flat trail. In 4 months you have enrolled in a 21km mountain run. How do you change your training without injury?

How to train for a half marathon

a. Frequency: Start training by adding a shorter run, an additional day per week. Don’t try running six days, straight away! Fatigue and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) will be far too much for your body and you'll end up injured.

b. Duration: Running for 1.5 hours, three days a week is where you’re at - so increase by increments of ten minutes per fortnight. You’ll be at 21kms in no time, but don’t force it straight away.

Overuse injuries are most common in runners with sudden increases in training duration. Shin splints? No thanks!

Hill Running

c. Intensity: This is the clincher. You may wake up feeling energised and stronger than ever one morning, but don’t be tempted to sprint up the biggest hill you can find. Running uphill puts huge stresses on the achilles tendon and hip flexors. When they’re not conditioned for hill running, the excessive loading and propulsion forces lead to tendonopathies (tendon conditions) and inflammation.


Running downhill

Don't try sprinting downhill straight away, and don't choose a hill with a huge incline. Running downhill requires huge concentric (shortening) contraction force through the quads, plus lengthening through the hamstrings. Avoid knee pain by slowly and gently increasing your hill training with small increments of incline, length and speed.

You will reach your goal, just remember to do it steadily. If you’re still unsure, contact a trainer or running program specialist. They will help you, step by step, to prepare for your event.


What else causes injuries?

2.) Long Distance Running

Recent studies have found those who run greater than 40 miles per week tend to be injured more. 40 miles? That’s almost 65 kms! 

Plenty of people run long distances frequently without injury, but understanding the huge biomechanics demands of long runs is important. A lot of Physiotherapists and Kinesiologists are also running coaches, so get in touch with a reputable Physio to help keep you running safely.

3.) One time runners

Women who run once a week or less are more likely to be injured than those who run frequently. Don’t be discouraged if you’re an occasional runner. Ensure you do a correct warm up, and indulge in strengthening during the week. This can be yoga, pilates, aerobics classes, dancing, rpm - anything that encourages lower leg strengthening! Be keeping your hips and core strong, your biomechanics will be at their best, making you less likely to get injured when you run.

If you're injured right now, you're probably frustrated and really 'over it.' I've treated so many people with injuries and I wanted to share what I've learned along the way. Check out this handy article: The key to injury recovery .

Have you ever had a running injury?