There’s no feeling that quite compares to the moment you find your running groove. Progress begins to increase as you find yourself running more mileage or faster than ever before. Unfortunately, this progress is often derailed as we find ourselves experiencing aches and pains just as we begin to see improvements. We complete our longest run yet, only to come home with an aching lower back. Or we complete a tempo run with our fastest mile split, only to wind up with shin splints by the end.
Overcoming Running Obstacles, Week 2: Running Pain
Running pain always seems to come when we are right in the middle of our best season. The pain can be anything from a dull ache to a sharp, shooting pain that takes us instantly off our feet. Running pain is a common obstacle for most runners, no matter how long you have been running. Fortunately, though, learning how to avoid the most common types of running pain will help prevent it down the road.
Understanding the causes of your aches and pains is the first step to avoiding them as you continue running. If you’re already experiencing some type of running pain, these simple treatment methods will help you get back on your feet.
Running pain can strike us all, whether we’re a beginner or pro. But don’t let running pain get you down. Learn what to do as soon as you notice an ache or pain with these tips for pain free running.
The 8 Most Common Causes of Running Pain
(and How to Avoid Them)
Lower Back Pain
If you’re experiencing lower back pain, it’s most likely due to an underlying weakness of which you may not even be aware. Although back pain may seem like a strange running injury since it involves your upper body, it can be quite paralyzing if you experience it on the run. Lower back pain can bring your running to a halt very quickly. No matter how strong your lower body is, if you are experiencing back pain it will affect you with every step.
Lower back pain is usually caused by a weakness somewhere in the body – most likely your core or entire back. To avoid experiencing back pain on the run, you will want to strengthen your entire core – from your lower abs, to upper abs and full back. One of the best moves to strengthen your back is a superman. Lie flat on the floor with your arms extended straight above your head. Life your arms and legs up from the floor simultaneously. Return to the floor and repeat.
This exercise strengthens your entire back, thickening your muscles to stabilize you on the run. Planks are great exercises to target the entire midsection. They strengthen your back and core at the same time. Check out some of these core and ab workouts and incorporate them into your regular training routine, or download the free 30 day plank challenge. If you’re looking for some immediate relief, completing a few foam roller exercises can help loosen tight muscles in your back.
- How to Use a Foam Roller to Relieve Back Pain
- At Home Ab Workout for a Flat Stomach
- 15 Minute Complete Core Workout
- 30 Day Plank Challenge
Hip pain on the run is tricky because it can be caused by a number of different things. Experiencing pain in the hips while running is common, especially as runners increase their mileage and run longer for the first time. Hip pain usually aches with every step and goes away once you stop running, making it harder for runners to tell whether or not the pain will return when they head out for a run.
Hip pain is usually caused by weak or tight muscles. Sometimes hip pain simply stems from tight hip abductors. To relieve and prevent this, make sure to stretch your hips on a regular basis after each run. Hips abductors quickly become tight as you log more miles, so use this runner’s lunge yoga pose to stretch them out.
You’ll want to make sure you are strengthening your hips and glutes to avoid pain in this area. The hip and glute region is one of the most finicky for runners, and often an area that is focused on in physical therapy or injury rehabilitation. Strong hips and glutes are crucial to maintaining strength and power on the run. Try one of these hip and glute workouts to ensure you are giving this area the care it deserves.
If you experience pain in your glutes while running, you are in luck because it is probably due to a temporary injury. Weak glutes usually lead to pain in other areas of the body. Many runners don’t realize when their glutes are inactive because they’re unable to tell whether or not their glutes are engaged on the run. Luckily, this means that glute pain is due to weakness or imbalance, not something more serious.
Glute pain usually involves a pulled muscle, which can be caused when the muscles are stretched too tightly. To avoid pulled muscles, you’ll want to regularly stretch the area to keep it loose. Stretch your glutes by performing either the half pigeon or half split yoga pose after each run. Make sure to warm up the area before each run, and focus on activated the glutes while running.
- 10 Crucial Lower Body Stretches for Runners
- Yoga Poses for Recovery
- The Best Warm Up Exercises for Runners
IT Band pain is something that you frequently hear about in runners. The Iliotibial band (otherwise known as the IT band) is notorious for creating chronic aches and pains among runners. The IT band is the fibrous muscle on the side of your leg that stretches all the way from your hips to knees. It creates aches and pains for runners that often are insignificant enough to run through in the beginning, but intensify with repeated use.
Stretching the IT band is an important method of treatement. If you are experiencing pain from IT band tightness, you’ll be able to tell when you try to complete these stretches. Cross your right foot over your left, placing it directly next to your left foot. Bend at the waist and reach your hands to the floor on the right side of your feet. You will feel this stretch on the outside of your right thigh, and can intensify it by walking your hands closer to your feet. Repeat on the opposite side.
IT band pain can be prevented by strengthening the muscles around your knee, hips and glutes. It is important that the muscles surrounding the Iliotibial band remain strong to avoid overworking the IT band. Complete single leg squats, skaters, lunges, and more targeted hip and glute exercises to do so.
Knee Pain – Runner’s Knee
Knee pain is such a common running pain that it was given a name just for runners. This pain usually involves a dull ache in your knees with each step while you run, and even once you’re done. Although the pain usually begins as a dull ache, if not treated it can become a much more intense sharp pain. Runner’s knee is a clear sign of muscle weakness or imbalance.
The best way to prevent or treat runner’s knee is to strengthen the muscles above it. Strengthening muscles in the quads and glutes helps take some of the force off your knees when running. These surrounding muscles provide a sort of cushion around the area each time you land. Classic strength training exercises are best to strengthen these muscles, and can be made more effective by completing them in isometric movements. Turn your squat into a jump squat or lunge into a jump lunge to improve the effect it has on your muscles. Don’t complete any movements that bring pain to the area, though.
Check out these strength workouts for runners, or download the 30 day strength training challenge (for free) to break these strength workouts up into a series of daily strengthening exercises to complete for 30 days.
- 30 Day Strength Training Challenge
- The Ultimate Pyramid Workout for Full Body Strength
- Easy Strength Moves to Improve Your Running
Calf pain can be very frustrating on the run. Whether it’s a dull ache throughout your entire calf or localized in one spot, calf pain seems impossible to ignore on the run. Lucky for you, calf pain usually results from tight calves or achilles, which can be dramatically lessened by completing some stretches and yoga.
Tight calves lead to pain with each step, as the muscles are contracted and unable to lengthen. Completing regular lower body stretches and yoga routines will help loosen the area. If you are looking for more immediate relief, try foam rolling the calves. This foam roller routine is sure to bring fresh blood to the area and loosen those muscles. You’ll want to complete a foam rolling session on a daily basis until you no longer experience pain on the run.
- Crucial Foam Rolling Exercises for Runners
- Yoga Poses for Recovery
- 10 Lower Body Stretches for Runners
Shin Pain – Shin Splints
Shin splits are so common that it’s easy to brush them off as a pain beginner runners need to deal with. We hear about them so frequently that if you’ve never experienced them it’s easy to think they magically disappear for those who experience them. On the contrary, though, shin splints can be a very intense pain. They can happen to anyone – whether you’re a beginner runner or an elite.
This shin pain occurs when your shin muscle actually separates from the bone, usually caused by running fast or far too quickly. They can begin as a dull ache in your shins and quickly intensify to sharp pains that you are unable to walk through.
If you are experiencing shin splints, the best way to immediately relieve them is to ice the area. Rest until the pain is completely gone, and then slowly begin to run again. Make sure to gradually increase your speed and/or distance. To prevent shin splints from reoccurring, regularly stretch the area. A simple way to stretch your shins is to cross one foot over the other and place your toes on the floor with the bottom of your foot pointed up towards you. Squat down with your standing leg until you feel the stretch in your shin.
Lower body and shin strengthening exercises can be performed to increase shin strength and lower your chances of experiencing shin splints.
Foot Pain – Plantar Fasciitis
Foot pain while running occurs in many different ways. It can occur on the top of your foot, the bottom of your foot in the middle or near the top, or in your heel. If you experience foot pain in the middle of your foot you are probably dealing with plantar fasciitis. This begins as a dull ache and can eventually become a sharp, shooting pain with each step.
Pain in the top of your foot, heel or underneath your toes is commonly caused from improper footwear. Take some time to get fitted for running shoes, and make sure you are switching out your shoes every 400 or so miles. If you experience plantar fasciitis, invest in shoes that have adequate support all day long. These means getting rid of the flip flops or flat shoes that you may wear to work or running errands.
This article has some great tips to prevent foot pain from occurring, and specific exercises to treat it now.
There is nothing more discouraging than having your progress stopped in its tracks from running aches and pains. Finally starting to see your mileage or speed increase is so motivating that it’s often tempting to continue to ramp it up. Make sure you increase slowly, no matter how quickly you are seeing progress. Avoiding doing too much too soon will help prevent nearly all of these running injuries. If you don’t increase too quickly and still find yourself in pain, it’s time to take a good look at your running form and muscle imbalances. Pain of all types can usually be avoided by regularly strengthening and stretching your body.
Don’t let running pains get you down. With just a little patience and tender loving care, you’ll soon be back on the roads feeling better than ever.