Top Ten Ways to Recognize a Running Injury

By Rick Morris

Distance running and minor aches and pains go together like milk and chocolate chip cookies. You rarely have one without the other. Running is great, but let’s face it, we just aren’t going to cruise through a 20 mile run in total and complete comfort. As a distance runner you learn to deal with those minor twinges and pains. The trick is knowing when those aches and pains are signs of a significant running injury that you need to deal with. You need to recognize when you can run through a pain and when you need to put on the brakes and heal up.

It’s always best to err on the side of caution and take some time off or visit your sports doctor when you suspect an injury. While caution is smart, you can learn to tell the difference between a minor ache and a major injury. Here are our top ten ways to recognize a running injury that you just can’t ignore.

Bigger isn’t Better

Nope, bigger isn’t better. At least not all the time. If swelling is present at the site of your pain, that is a sure sign that you may have a running injury and need to back off  with some treatment and recovery.

Just Cause You Can’t Feel It…

Most running injuries come with pain. But some others come with just the opposite; numbness or tingling – a sign of nerve involvement. If you notice numbness or pins and needles, it’s time for a trip to the doc.

Stride Altering

A minor ache or pain won’t interfere with your stride. If you are forced to alter your stride in any way to deal with your ache or pain you should really consider calling it quits for a while. You probably have a running injury and definitely need some R&R.

Interference Penalty

I played cornerback for my high school football team. I always hated it when that bright yellow hankie came flying out of the referee’s back pocket on an interference penalty. Today as a runner and coach I still hate interference penalties of a different kind. If your ache or pain is interfering with your normal, daily activities, it’s a sign that you are on the major running injury path and need to take appropriate action.

Don’t Stop

Pardon my bad grammar, but if the pain don’t stop, you need to. Minor or insignificant aches and pains usually get better after the first mile to two of running. If your ache or pain continues throughout your run you better take a step back and look more carefully for a running injury.

Power Outage

The last thing you want as a distance runner is to suffer from a power outage. If you notice a decrease in the power, elasticity or “springiness” of your affected limb you need to cut your power totally and take steps to diagnose and treat your injury.

Performance Problems

Sometimes the first sign of a developing running injury is an unexplained decrease in race or running performance. Performance problems can even show up before pain or numbness. If you notice any running performance problems that you can’t explain, try to back off with some rest and recovery. You may just head off a significant injury before it becomes a major issue.

Range Reduction

Injuries to joints, muscles and connective tissues will often cause a decrease in your functional range of motion. If your aches and pains are causing a range reduction it could be a sign of a problem that requires your attention.

Post Workout Woes

You already know that there are going to be some aches present after your workout, especially after a long or hard training run. If those post run pains graduate from minor aches to sharp pains or more severe dull aches; or if your post workout woes last more than an hour or two, it’s time for a checkup.

Suddenly Sinister

While some aches and pains are normal, a sudden sharp pain during your run is not. If a sharp pain or significant ache suddenly pops up during your run you should probably raise the white flag and shut things down. It’s better to retreat and stay healthy to run another day.