If you’ve never run before, the sport itself might look a bit painful. After all, it’s hard to imagine that the repetitive pounding of running can feel very good. And while this pounding may not be as damaging as one might expect, it’s important for runners to be aware of the difference between running pain and discomfort.
With appropriate shoes and technique, running is actually a fairly safe and damage-free sport. But many runners find themselves heel striking, slouching or running on worn out shoes once the miles start to add up.
When your body gets tired, it’s most susceptible to running injuries.
The physical act of running challenges the body in various ways, many of which are beneficial for improving cardiovascular fitness and overall strength. But as you run to gain fitness and hit your goals, you’ll probably experience your fair share of discomfort along the way.
Which can lead to one of the most frustrating aspects of the sport.
Is this a running pain or discomfort?
Many runners have no idea how to tell if they’re developing a running injury.
Not knowing whether you are experiencing general discomfort or a specific running pain can be frustrating – which leads to many runners spending a great deal of mental energy analyzing what they are feeling.
If it really is a running pain, it could be a sign of a running injury that should not be ignored.
But on the flipside, if it is just general discomfort, it’s definitely worthwhile to continue pushing through.
Differentiating between running pain and discomfort is key to staying healthy, strong, and avoiding unwanted, forced breaks. Understanding when to take a break and when to push through is crucial for any runner that wants to stay injury-free throughout training.
It’s perfectly normal to find that increasing mileage leaves your legs feeling sore and more tired than usual. Similarly, adding some speed workouts might make your legs burn in areas you’ve never felt before.
These normal aches, discomforts and sore spots are all associated with healthy training.
But if you’re experiencing a sharp, localized running pain, it is a sign that you need to take a step back.
Understanding your body and what feels normal is the first step to being able to recognize a running injury. Learning what discomfort to expect will help you quickly notice any abnormal running pains – such as localized pain in your foot, knee, shin or anywhere else.
Here are a few signs of running injuries that can’t be ignored – no matter how tempting it may be to power through.
5 Signs of a Running Injury
Your running pain is localized.
One of the key indicators that your running pain is more than a general discomfort is whether or not the pain is localized or wide-spread. If you are dealing with a running injury, you’ll likely experience sharp, intense pain in one specific area.
On the contrary, if you are experienced general achiness and discomfort throughout an entire region, it is likely just residual soreness that accompanies training.
However, when your pain is limited to one specific spot, it’s time to take action. This type of pain often develops into a full blown running injury if you continue to power through with training. If your pain is intense in one spot, it’s time to take a break or a few extra rest days to let it heal.
Your pain continues after your run ends.
Another indicator that you’re likely dealing with injury pain as opposed to general discomfort is when the pain continues after your run is complete. Running aches often occur during tough workouts or longer runs – but if your pain continues after your run has ended, it’s definitely a red flag.
Running pain that causes you to limp or hobble for the rest of day should be a sign for concern. Pay special attention to this type of pain, as it can quickly develop into something more serious.
Similarly, when your pain sticks around for days on end, it is an indicator that something is wrong. When one run after another feels painful, and this pain leaks into your daily routine, your body is sending you signals to rest.
Your pain is causing you to alter your stride.
Another warning sign that an injury might be in the works is when your pain is so intense that it causes you to alter or completely change your stride. Normal running discomforts cause general achiness that can be annoying, but usually manageable on the run.
General discomfort and soreness almost always gets better as you settle into your run, and usually disappears by the end. However, running injury pain can often be so severe that it causes you to limp or adjust the way that you are running just to keep going.
If your pain causes you to change your stride in any way in order to run, it’s time to take a rest day. Even if your pain isn’t something that will get worse, altering your stride might lead to an eventual running injury.
Your running pain is gradually getting worse.
The tricky part about differentiating between running pain and discomfort is that both usually come on slowly and can feel similar in the beginning stages. Discomfort and soreness often lingers, but doesn’t usually get worse over time.
However, running pain almost always intensifies with repetitive use. With each day and run that passes, the pain becomes more and more severe.
When your pain continues to get worse each day, it’s a sign that you are well on your way to developing a full blown running injury. Be proactive in your recovery by taking some extra rest days now to prevent many forced weeks off in the future.
You cannot run through the pain.
Runners are often stubborn enough that they continue to run through nagging pains, no matter how long the pain has been around. And while this is certainly a trait that bodes well with the consistency of training, it is often a reason that many runners wind up side-lined for peak training weeks or goal races.
If your pain has gotten so bad that you literally cannot run through it, it is time to stop. You are just a few miles away from developing a serious injury (if you haven’t already) and your body is desperately trying to send you signals.
Listening to your body and learning how it responds to different training scenarios is crucial for determining the difference between running pain and discomfort.
While there are certainly many aches and pains associated with the sport, it’s important to listen to your body and not ignore something that might end up being serious.
Ultimately, taking a few days off by choice now is much easier of a pill to swallow than being forced to take weeks off in the future.
More running injury tips:
- 6 Habits of Runners to Avoid Injuries
- How to Overcome Common Running Pains
- 8 Signs You Should Take a Break from Running