Causes of running injuries

Traumatic and overuse running injuries

There is nothing more frustrating than picking up a running injury, whether by falling over and over-stretching, or building one up over time. Running injuries generally fall into two categories: traumatic and overuse injuries. As a result, here's our guide on how running injuries are caused and how runners can identify them early on.

We can’t guarantee that you will run injury-free if you follow the advice on these pages, but we will try to give you the best advice to help minimise the occurrence of injury and correctly manage a running injury if one does occur.

Running injuries usually fit into two categories:

  • Traumatic running injuries
  • Overuse running injuries

A traumatic injury is as a result of an acute episode; for example falling down a pothole in the pavement whilst out run training.

An overuse injury occurs as a result of repetitive overload on a tissue, with each episode causing trauma on a microscopic scale, and accumulating with each run to cause injury. An example of this is achilles tendonitis.

An overuse injury can be further classified as either ‘intrinsic’ or ‘extrinsic’. Intrinsic factors relate to the individual's physical characteristics. An extrinsic injury is caused by an external force. In reality running injuries are often a mixture of the two.

Examples of intrinsic factors which may lead to running injury include:

  • Muscle imbalance.
  • Lack of flexibility (or, in some cases over-flexibility, or joint laxity).
  • Gait abnormalities and misalignment problems, such as overpronation and difference in leg length.
  • Body composition and size.

Often such factors are not as important in the sedentary individual, but can contribute increasingly to injury as running distances increase.

Examples of extrinsic factors which may lead to running injury include:

  • Inappropriate or worn-out training equipment: i.e. trainers.
  • Too much road running or running the same way on a cambered road repeatedly.
  • Training errors; the most common one being increasing mileage too quickly, also not allowing enough rest/recovery between runs.
  • Environmental conditions; muscle or tendon injuries can occur in cold weather when there has been insufficient warm-up; heat exhaustion and dehydration can also contribute to injuries.

So, overall, preventing running injuries involves identifying potential problem areas and doing something about it, where possible.


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