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Running Injuries

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We’ve all been at a race and seen some poor soul heading towards the finish and it looks like he may have been shot twice in the chest during the run…

…Upon closer inspection, you realize he may actually be bleeding to death.

From his nipples. 

I joke about it, but any long-distance runner will tell you that nipple chafing is no laughing matter. 

Chafed nipples, or runners’ nipple as it is sometimes called, can literally wreck a fantastic run.

Nipple chafing occurs when friction created between your nipple and shirt or sports bra causes chafing. It can be painful, but it can also be avoided.

With a little preparation your nipple chafing nightmare can disappear… here’s how!

What Causes Nipple Chafing On Long Runs

Chafed nipples are a very common running injury. 

The great news is that preventing nipple chafe is quite easy with a bit of trial and error and proper preparation.

Chafed nipples are caused by the fabric on your vest, bra, or running shirt rubbing against your nipple.

Nipple chafe in females is less common than in men, but nipple chafe can happen to women too if their sports bras are a little loose fitting. 

There is a good chance your nipples will chafe if there’s too much friction or movement between the nipple and the fabric that covers it. 

Nipple chafe can get quite painful and as mentioned before, you often see runners coming into the finish of a race with blood streaks running down their vest. 

Now that we know what causes nipple chafe, let’s see how you can prevent it…

How To Prevent Nipple Chafe While Running

The most effective and easiest way to reduce friction and prevent your nipples from chafing during a run is to put plasters onto your nipples and cover your nipples. 

You’ll probably need to experiment with two or three different types of plasters or tapes before you find the right type for you. 

I do find that certain plasters stick better on different types of skin. 

You’re looking for a plaster that is going to stick well to your skin and stay stuck to your skin for the duration of your run. It’s also important to stick the plaster onto your nipple before you apply any moisturizing cream or sunscreen to your skin. 

You want your skin and hands to be as dry as possible when you first stick the plaster to your skin and nipple. Any moisture on your nipple or skin will not allow the plaster or tape to stick properly. 

If you’re a very hairy male, you may also want to shave the hair from the area around that nipple before you stick the plasters on. 

Having a lot of hair under the plaster will allow moisture to seep under the plaster during the run and it may affect the stickiness of the plaster. In some cases it may even come off, causing the nipple to become exposed and susceptible to chafing. 

You want the nipple area to stay dry so shaving the surrounding area before applying the plaster will help.

I also try to avoid plaster or tape with any type of gauze or dressing on it. This can also absorb moisture during a run which can affect the stickiness of the plaster. 

Running in the correct clothing can also prevent your nipples from chafing.

Running in cotton shirts tends to make chafing worse, so good quality, a moisture-wicking shirt is ideal to run in.

Also, if you’re a female, make sure you are in a properly fitting sports bra.

The Best Plaster Or Tape To Prevent Nipple Chafing

In my experience, Elastoplast works quite well. I’ve used two or three different types of plasters in the past but you are looking for something that will stick and stay on throughout your run.

Kinesio tape also works very well and sticks for a long time.

Experimenting with the size of the piece of plaster you use can also impact how effective it is. 

You may want to just cover the bit of your nipple that sticks out or you may want to cover the entire areola.

For some runners, a tiny square of plaster is enough to cover and protect the nib of the nipple. For others, a lot more plaster is needed. 

You also want to ensure that the corners are stuck down properly too. 

A corner that is not securely stuck down can sometimes catch on your running shirt and the movement and rubbing over time can cause the plaster to come off. 

Best Running Shirts For Nipple Chafing

AVOID cotton at all costs! Cotton absorbs sweat and stays wet. The shirt you should be wearing must be made of synthetic, sweat-wicking fabrics. 

Cut off all seams and tags as they can irritate. Your shirt should NOT be baggy either. 

How Long Does It Take For Chafed Nipples To Heal

The healing time depends on the conditions and extent of the nipple chafe.

If it’s just a bit sore.., then the healing process could be within a few hours after you stop running, but if it’s serious it could take up to two to three weeks to heal properly. 

How To Stop Nipple Chafing During A Running Race?

If you feel that burning sensation that chafed nipples causes coming on during a race, you can apply an anti-chafing balm.

A lubricant like petroleum jelly or Vaseline, for example, can work too.

If there is a first aid or medic station on the race route, they should have some kind of lubricant that will help. 

They may also have plasters, which would be first prize. 

NB: If you are going to apply plaster to your nipples during a run, try and dry your skin as best you can. 

If there’s nothing around and you aren’t able to apply a lubricant or plaster,  then one of the ways that you can stop your vest from actually physically chafing against your nipples is to wet your vest. 

Every time you get to a refreshment station or water point, just spray or pour water across the chafed area.

Doing this will make your clothes stick to you, and they will then move with your body because it’s stuck on the body, rather than causing that friction between the two. 

On the odd occasion that I’ve forgotten to use plasters, keeping my chest and vest wet has been the most effective way for me to stop my nipples from chafing in the absence of being able to get something to put on my nipples during a run or race.

How To Treat Chafed Nipples From Running

You must treat the wounds as soon as possible to prevent them from getting worse.

Note… Running through this type of injury will only make it worse. 

This is what you can do to help with the healing process of your chafed nipples:

  • Take time off from running to allow your nipples to heal completely. Do some cross-training and strength training instead. (Here’s a free strength training program)
  • Wash the wounds with a non-chemical soap and unscented soap and then dry them well.
  • The wound can turn into an infection easily so it’s a good idea to use an antiseptic cream.
  • Cover the wounds with breathable gauze to keep unwanted dirt off your nipples but at the same time provide breathing room.

The words metatarsal stress fracture is enough to strike fear into the heart of any runner…

…At best you’ll miss weeks of training, and the worst-case scenario is you’ll be on the sidelines for months. 

Your foot is made of tiny little bones, called metatarsals. A metatarsal stress fracture is an acute fracture of one of the little bones in your foot. This fracture occurs due to overuse or poor foot biomechanics.

Let’s have a deeper dive into why metatarsal stress fractures happen, the symptoms, and what type of treatment is required…

Cause Of a Metatarsal Stress Fracture

A metatarsal stress fracture is not the most common stress fracture you can get. 

What I have found with running injuries over the years is that when our bodies break down, they generally break down at the weakest point.

So what happens is that there’s a long line of stress in the body and it’s the part of the body that’s unable to deal with that stress that breaks down and sometimes the stress fractures include the metatarsals.

Stress fractures, in general, are primarily an overuse injury but many factors play into the causes of getting a metatarsal stress fracture in general: 

  1. Stress fractures in sports are often caused by a repetitive force that is applied over a long time.- That is why runners who run long distances often suffer from metatarsal fractures.
  1. Metatarsal stress fractures are often caused by being in the incorrect shoes.
  1. The surface you run on would also play a big role in developing a stress fracture in your foot. If you’re training on hard paving all the time that would put you at a higher risk of developing any type of stress fracture. 
  1. Building up your mileage too quickly can also put your body under enormous strain that could result in a metatarsal stress fracture. 
  1. Nutrition can also be a contributing factor to developing a metatarsal stress fracture. 

If you have really poor nutrition, if you’re extremely underweight or if you have or have had an eating disorder you may be predisposed to getting stress fractures easier.

Marathon runners typically are always trying to lose as much weight as possible, so it’s important to get the balance right of losing weight while still giving your body the nutrients it needs to perform at its best.

When you are underweight and if you aren’t eating properly there is a good chance your nutrition is poor. That then is a contributing factor to stress fractures in general.

Bone Health: What You Absolutely NEED To Know

Now that we know a few of the causes, let’s have a look at the symptoms of a metatarsal stress fracture…

Symptoms Of a Metatarsal Stress Fracture

One of the difficulties in diagnosing a metatarsal stress fracture is that there are varying degrees of pain. 

By their very nature, stress fractures are like a dull, underlying, niggly pain. 

You’re often not quite sure how serious it is because many times the pain is manageable.

You can often run with metatarsal stress fractures. Quite typically, a metatarsal stress fracture will be quite painful at the start of exercise, and then the pain and discomfort might minimize and sometimes even go away completely during exercise.

And then immediately after exercise, as soon as you start cooling off, the pain will start to return. 

They often come on quite slowly over time because they really aren’t that painful, and the pain can come and go, we tend to run on them until we’ve done some real damage.

Metatarsal Stress Fracture: The Early Warning Signs

NB: You shouldn’t ignore any discomfort or pain.

That’s the only way that you might be able to catch something like a metatarsal stress fracture at a pre-stress fracture stage, or what’s called a stress response phase rather than the stress fracture phase.

If you catch it early, you may only need to be out for a couple of weeks, as opposed to potentially 6 to 12 weeks out.  Because the metatarsals are a moving part of your body and are weight-bearing, they also tend to heal slower than some of the other stress fractures so you mustn’t ignore any pain.

So… How do we treat it?

How To Treat a Metatarsal Stress Fracture

My suggestion would be to consult a doctor in sports medicine. 

You will need to head to a medical center to have scans and X-rays taken of your foot and ankle to confirm that you do have a fracture of one of the metatarsal bones.

If the injury is not soft tissue related but is an actual of the metatarsal you’re probably going to be putting a boot for six weeks. 

You’re probably going to only start running another two to four weeks once you’ve come out of the boot. 

You’ll probably also be put on a course of steroidal anti-inflammatories which will help with the initial discomfort and reduce some of the inflammation and pain. 

You would also need to try and get to the bottom of what caused your metatarsal stress fracture.

This may all sound a bit intimidating but don’t fear… it is preventable!

How To Prevent a Metatarsal Stress Fracture

There are a few things you can do to prevent getting a metatarsal stress fracture

  • Analyze your training program (to make sure you aren’t training too much or building up too quickly)
  • Check your biomechanics (to make sure there are no real issues in your makeup that are predisposing you to, particularly a metatarsal stress fracture)
  • Your nutrition (Eat enough, nutrient-rich foods so that your body is not deficient in nutrients needed for good bone health)
  • Check your running gait and make sure you are running in the correct running shoes.
  • From time to time, there may be a shoe that for whatever reason, in its design, maybe place stress through a particular of your body. 

In the past, I’ve seen a sudden spate of metatarsal stress fractures and on closer inspection, I realized all the athletes were in the same brand and model of running shoe…

The easiest way to figure out if a model of running shoes is causing a particular problem is to simply Google it. 

Getting Back Into Running After a Metatarsal Stress Fracture

One of the things about stress fractures is that the bone normally heals very well. 

The first thing to do is ensure you are pain-free before returning to running after a metatarsal stress fracture.

The body typically over responds to the site where metatarsal stress fracture occurs so if you allow it to heal properly, it’s unlikely to fracture again.

If it does fracture again, you will need to do some investigations around bone density (This is often an issue in female athletes) and really dig into past nutritional practices.

As part of that rehabilitative process, you also want to strengthen all the muscles that are in particular required for running. 

Primarily you want to strengthen your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. (This strength training plan will help you strengthen the muscles you need to strengthen to avoid injury)

The human feet are VERY complex… featuring 26 bones and an intricate network of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia.

We constantly tell runners that strength and conditioning are important for your core, hips, hamstrings, and glutes… which is 100% true. But…

Most runners don’t focus on their feet, lower legs, and structures around the ankle.

We spend so much time running in training and doing the necessary strength work, we even take time out to plan our nutrition…

By strengthening your feet and the structures around the ankles, you can gain foot mobility and strength. It has been proven that strengthening your feet can be just as rewarding as strengthening any other part of your body.

Let’s have a look at exactly how strengthening your feet and ankles will contribute to stopping your feet from hurting while you run… 

What Exactly Happens To Your Feet When You Run

Your intrinsic foot muscles are responsible for the stabilization of your foot. 

These muscles contract eccentrically during the stance phase of running (think about when your foot arches). 

Before shortening at the propulsion phase of the gait, the arch recoils with the plantar fascia. It is here where those intrinsic small muscles of the foot are vital – providing flexibility, stability, and shock absorption to the foot, whilst partially controlling pronation. 

In other words, the intrinsic muscles of the foot are responsible for:

  • Power absorption of the foot
  • They act as protectors of the plantar fascia
  • They facilitate the way your foot transfers force from the ground back into the body

There was a study done on 118 recreational runners divided into a control group (no foot core training) and an intervention group (foot core training) over a 12-month period where they were assessed every 3 months. 

The group that did not receive the foot core training (control) was 2.42 times more likely to experience a running-related injury within the 12-month study period than participants in the intervention group. 

This study showed that they were able to reduce the risk of injuries within 4-8 months of training the foot and surrounding structures. 

I worked with an elite female South African ultra-endurance runner who went to Iten in Kenya for a 6-week training camp. She said it was an amazing experience, training in a place where running is practically a religion, where most of the best marathon runners in the world train.

She told me a story about how in one of her hour-long sports massages after a heavy week of training; the local sports massage therapist spent 20 minutes working on her feet. 

It took her by surprise initially and she asked the therapist why she wasn’t spending more time on her hamstrings or glutes…The therapist replied with a somewhat obvious “because we are runners”.

When my athlete told me about this, it was like a lightbulb moment for me! 

How do we, as runners, not spend more time on our feet and so the research began!

Most Common Causes Of Foot Pain/Injuries While Running

  1. Plantar fasciitis 

The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain at the bottom of your heel or sometimes at the bottom midfoot area. It usually affects just one foot, but it can affect both of your feet.

Symptoms also include pain that is worse in the morning or when you stand after sitting for a long time or a swollen heel.

  1. Bone Stress

Bone stress is what happens before a stress fracture. It involves pain, swelling, or aching in an isolated area.

  1. Stress Fracture

Stress fractures occur when there are small breaks in the bone that cause sharp pain, tenderness, and swelling.

Any bone can be susceptible to a stress fracture, but bones in the feet are the most common.

By overtraining, increasing your running load too fast, running on hard surfaces too often, or wearing the wrong running shoes you can give yourself stress fractures.

  1. Tendinopathy 

This is a clinical syndrome that often but not always implies overuse tendon injuries characterized by a combination of pain and swelling.

Tendinopathies can occur on the lateral side of the ankle (peroneal tendinopathy) or around the heel (Achilles tendinopathy). (Note: it’s not always on the lateral side and Achilles, although these can be the most prevalent)

Now that we know why we may be experiencing pain in our feet while we run… let’s find out if we should continue running through the pain and what we can do to prevent the pain.

You may have heard us mention the term ‘foot core’ before… It’s still quite foreign to a lot of runners, so I think it’s best if we dive into it…

Everything You Need To Know About Foot-Core

To understand the foot core, I think we should explain the core of the trunk.

The “core” as we know it as runners, is all the muscles in the trunk that surround the spine, this includes muscles at the back and not just the abdominals. 

The core is made up of local stabilizers (smaller muscles that stabilize the hips but do not produce a large amount of movement) and the bigger muscle groups (responsible for the main amount of movement).

Think… Smaller muscle groups – stabilizers. Larger muscle groups – movers. 

When the smaller stabilizing muscles are weak or are not recruited appropriately, the larger muscle groups will take over to ensure movement occurs. This causes the foundation to be unstable and misaligned which causes abnormal movement patterns… resulting in a variety of overuse or other types of injuries. 

The smaller muscle groups will continue to be weak and lazy, so we have to train them to work in the right way so that the bigger muscle groups don’t just take over.  

… so the focus on training your core developed. 

Your foot works in the same way – the smaller muscle groups are the stabilizers of the foot which allow for a more stable range of motion and control, and the bigger muscle groups around the lower limb control the main movement of the leg. 

If we don’t work on those smaller muscles they become lazy and the bigger muscles just override them causing imbalances and injuries.

This is where FOOT CORE becomes as important as working the core of your trunk – the body works as a chain, and if there is a weak link somewhere in this chain this may present at the source or may present further or lower up the chain as a different type of injury. A

If there is weakness and lack of stability in the foot the body is going to compensate in some other way and you may find you have knee or hip pain (as an example) and not just a lower limb injury. 

Foot core focuses on the strength and mobility of intrinsic muscles in your foot. 

We spend so much time as runners on our feet… Think about it! 

The intrinsic muscles in your foot are what regulate your speed and movement and allow for a bigger and more stable range of motion. 

We shouldn’t just focus on strengthening the big muscle groups, we should also focus on smaller muscles that will help stop or delay our feet from fatiguing.

For people who struggle with foot injuries such as plantar fasciitis, doing foot core exercises should be a very key component of your training program as it will help prevent those injuries. 

The Importance Of Strengthening Your Feet

An obvious importance of strengthening your feet as a runner is because… Well.. we run on our feet. 

Secondly,  every single time that you take a step, those small stabilizing muscles along with the tendons, all the different structures, and all the fascia has to work to stabilize that foot.  

There are a lot of forces coming through there with every single step and that is often how injuries occur.

If we start working on the small intrinsic muscles within the feet we really can start minimizing some of those common running injuries.

The running gait requires a certain amount of movement in the toes and ankle and therefore we need to start working on some flexibility/mobility there

Part of your running is called a ‘Toe off’: The toe off starts with the push and you shouldn’t land on your toe and that happens EVERY SINGLE time your step.

Think about when you run a 5K or 10K… or even a marathon or Ultramarathon… that’s a lot of steps!

How Often You Should be Doing Foot Core Strengthening

It’s been proven that at least three sessions of foot core strengthening a week is best. 

We know that just isn’t possible for the majority of us. I suggest foot core should be done daily (if you’re someone who struggles) and then every alternate day would be enough to maintain from there. (or 2-3x times per week)

In the Coach Parry programs, the foot core strengthening takes anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes so you could even do the training while sitting at your dining room table in the evenings or in front of the TV, that’s why we recommend three to four spaced out sessions per week.

How To Prevent Foot Pain While Running

We highly recommend adding some foot core work (If we haven’t made that obvious enough;)) to your training regime 2-3 times per week. 

It doesn’t need to be long, 10-15 minutes per session will suffice. 

If you’re already doing strength training… which we also highly recommend you do! 

Do this at the end of your strength work or do these exercises before you go to bed every night. 

Some younger athletes do it first thing in the morning – If you struggle with Achilles stiffness in the mornings then it’s better to do it in the evenings.

Here are some exercises we recommend you do: 

  1. “Short-Foot” / Foot Arch 
  2. Foot Intrinsics
  3. Toe Crunch
  4. Big toe lift with band
  5. Mobility
  6. Big Toe (neural)
  7. Big Toe mobility 
  8. Ankle
  9. Plantar Fascia Strength / Mobility 
  10. Lower limb stability
  11. Tib post 
  12. Eccentric SL Calf Raise 

We all know that sharp, tightening pain of a muscle cramp and how highly unpleasant it can be… especially in your toes.

We use our toes every day, so they get quite the workout, add running into the equation and you realize how important they really are.

Toe cramps are in essence caused by muscle fatigue which can be caused by many factors such as dehydration, overtraining, or lack of circulation due to incorrect shoes. 

Let’s have a deeper look into the causes of toe cramps, what to do when your toes are cramping, and how to prevent the cramps in the first place.

What Causes Toe Cramps?

There are a few reasons why you might be experiencing toe cramps.
The reasons range from something as simple as not drinking enough water to more serious underlying medical conditions.

  1. Dehydration
  2. Wearing the wrong shoes
  3. Overtraining
  4. Tight Muscles
  5. Certain Medications

Toe Cramps From Dehydration

Dehydration can sometimes cause your muscles to cramp or feel tense.

Water has various functions in the body such as transport of nutrients to the active tissues, getting rid of waste products, and temperature regulation.

Temperature and hydration have an influence on your running performance… 

During exercise, we must be fully hydrated.

Firstly, to get rid of the waste products, which are the result of your muscles working.

Secondly, to deliver nutrients. It doesn’t help if we eat all the correct things and then they don’t get delivered to the muscle due to dehydration.

Signs Of Dehydration:

  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Rapid breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizzy & light headed

Toe Cramps From Wearing Incorrect Shoes

Running in worn-out shoes can actually lead to a running injury so knowing when to swap out your old shoes for a new pair is very important.

After you’ve been running in your shoes for quite a while, they’ll start to show signs of wear and tear.

These will be things like poor shock absorption, and worn tread, they’ll feel flat and you might experience pain or toe cramps while running.

If you start to notice these signs of wear, it’s time to start looking for a new pair of running shoes.

When To Change Your Running Shoes – The Mileage Guide

Toe Cramps From Overtraining

Are you doing too much, too soon? 

Your toe cramps while running may be a sign that you’ve increased your mileage too fast or added too much speedwork to your training recently…

Toe Cramps From Tight Muscles

If your muscles are tight or even weak, it can cause toe cramps. 

There are so many muscles in your toes, so any tightness can cause pain in the form of cramps.

That’s why highly recommend doing foot and ankle strength training.

We spend so much time running in training and doing the necessary strength work. We watch our nutrition. Religiously following our running training program. But the one thing we as runners tend to neglect is strengthening our feet and ankles.

Toe Cramps From Medication

This obviously only happens to some people, but is something to bear in mind…

Certain medications can contribute to muscle cramps. 

These can include diuretics and cholesterol-lowering medications, such as statins and nicotinic acid.

Now that we know what can cause our toes to cramp… Let’s have a look at how we handle the situation.

What To Do If Your Toe Starts To Cramp While Running?

Stretch Your Toes

  • Toe raises: Raise your heel off the ground so that only your toes and the ball of your foot are touching the floor. Hold for 5 seconds, lower, and repeat.
  • Toe flex or point: Flex your foot so your big toe looks like it’s pointing in one direction. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat.
  • Toe curl: Bend all of your toes as if you’re trying to tuck them under your foot. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat.

Apply Ice or Heat

Ice will help with pain relief. Make sure to wrap the ice in a towel first.
Heat will help relax your toe muscles, you can place your feet in warm water.

Stop & Change Your Shoes

The type of shoes you run can definitely give you toe cramps.  You need to find the right type of shoe for you. 

This is how to choose the correct running shoes.

How To Relieve Toe Cramps Fast With Home Remedies

If your toes are cramping a home remedy is to massage your foot… Or better yet, get a lucky someone to massage your feet gently for you. Another method of massaging your feet is to rub your foot gently over a round object like a golf ball, this should help release the tightness causing your toes to cramp. 

Drink some water, a glass of water may be just what the doctor ordered.

You probably know that bananas are a good source of potassium, but they’ll also give you magnesium and calcium which can help relieve the pain from your muscle cramps.

The best thing would be to prevent your toe cramps in the first place… Let’s look at the different ways you can save your future self and prevent toe cramps…

How To Prevent Toe Cramps While Running

There’s no magic cure for toe cramps…

There is no silver bullet to cure cramping, purely because no one knows exactly what causes cramping. 

Cramping is in essence a result of an overlap in signals in the neural receptors in our muscles that cause our muscles to contract and relax. This overlap sends the muscle into spasm as it doesn’t know if it should be contracting or relaxing. What causes this, we don’t know.

Research even shows that magnesium supplements seem to make no difference at all.

At least there are ways we can try and prevent the toe cramps…

  • Wear the right shoes.
  • Hydrate efficiently.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Don’t overtrain.
  • Build up your mileage slowly.
  • Warm-up before your runs with dynamic stretches.
  • Do foot strength exercises regularly.

When To See a Doctor About Your Toe Cramps

If your toe cramps have become quite regular and are happening more and more on your runs or are lasting for longer periods of time then it might be a good idea to consider going to the doctor as recurring cramps or cramps worsening may be a sign of an underlying health condition.

Do you battle with tight hamstrings? 

Hamstring problems can be the worst!

However, if treated correctly; followed by finding the root of the problem; you can give them a big fat kiss goodbye. 

Hamstring problems do tend to need treatment as there are numerous reasons as to why they may be an issue… so getting to the bottom of it is a must.

Let’s look at the most common causes of tight hamstrings, how to combat those potential causes, how to prevent tight hamstrings, and what strength training exercises will help.

What Causes Tight Hamstrings?

There are a couple of key pointers to tight hamstrings and cycling is actually one of the most common causes.

This is because in our daily lives we sit a lot… There’s no doubt about it. When you cycle, your body is put into a forward flex position. So the actual act of cycling and closing up the joint angle between the femur, or the leg and your torso means that you get quite tight hip flexors from just sitting normally when you’re at your desk or watching TV, etc…

Riding a bicycle contributes to that and when you get so tight in your hip flexors you can get a slight pelvic tilt and when you get that pelvic tilt it effectively creates a situation where you have these “short tight hamstrings”.

It’s not actually that they’re that short and tight. It’s that they’ve been pulled to a position they’re not supposed to be in because you have got this potential pelvic tilt.

So, we know that tight hamstrings can be the result of a poor posture which causes a forward pelvic tilt, which puts your hamstrings in a lengthened and weakened position, even though they feel tight.

Another reason why your hamstrings could be tight is due to genetics, some people are naturally more limited in their hamstring flexibility and, as such, may be predisposed to tighter ones.

Poor glute activation could also lead to hip instability, which will result in tight hamstrings too.

Sports that require repetitive sprints or sudden direction changes can also cause tight hamstrings.

Now that we know what could be the cause of your tight hamstrings, let’s have a look at how to combat them…

How To Release Tight Hamstrings

The way to deal with tight hamstrings is to strengthen them so that they can help to pull your pelvis back into position and also stretch those hip flexors. 

Tight hip flexors manifest in a couple of ways. 

They manifest in hamstring problems, glute problems, and ITB problems and I guess it depends on each individual exactly where the problem is.

If you are running a lot of hills, especially if you’re running quite a bit off-road or steep climbs… you tend to lean forward quite a lot, which causes your lower back to tighten up, which again can lead to transferring of tightness into your hamstrings.

So to release your tight hamstrings you need to strengthen them as well as your lower back, you need to stretch your hip flexors and if you are running uphill often then you need to make sure you’ve got a really strong core and that will help to get that range of motion feeling a lot better. 

Is There a Trick To Releasing Your Hamstrings?

Is there such a thing as a trick to sort out a hamstring, or should you resort to seeking medical attention….

Don’t let your hamstring turn into a chronic injury. 

If you manage to sort out your tight hamstrings quickly then it won’t turn into a chronic injury and it won’t take as long to heal.

Purely resting very seldom sorts out the problem. Massaging with a tennis ball is going to give you a bit of a mild fascia release and loosen up the hamstring a little bit… But it’s not going to get into that deep tissue, massaging, or needling is probably required.

For a niggling chronic hamstring injury, there’s no way that just one physio session is going to sort it out. It’s probably going to take 3-5 physio sessions.

Between that, you might be allowed to do some cycling, maybe aqua jogging, or low impact exercise that does not elicit pain… 

Chronic Hamstring Injury – You Need To Do Strength Training

If you don’t do strength training… as soon as your hamstrings get put under some pressure then you’re going to have another problem.

You need to work out where the imbalance is (Your physio can help with that) and how to deal with your imbalance… the main thing you need to find out is if it’s a strength issue or a flexibility issue.

How To Prevent Getting Tight Hamstrings?

  1. Strengthening Your Leg Muscles

You have to make your hamstrings stronger. You also need to improve the strength and activity of the muscles which support your hamstring.

  1. Move Your Body Throughout The Day

Even if your job requires you to sit at a desk all day, try to take regular breaks to prevent your muscles from tightening up.

  1. Eat a Healthy Diet

If you overwork your hamstrings, your recovery requires more than just ice and rest. You should incorporate vital nutritional elements, such as protein and carbohydrates to aid in your recovery.

Hamstrings Stretches

  1. Common Hamstring Stretch

Sit on the floor with both of your legs out straight in front of you.

Reach your arms towards your toes and bend at your waist while trying to keep your legs straight.

Hold for 15 seconds, release, and do 3x reps.

  1. Lying Hamstring Stretch

Lie down with your back flat on the ground and your legs out in front of you.

Right leg stretch: Hold the back of your right knee with both hands, pull the leg up toward your chest, and slowly straighten the knee until you feel it stretching. Hold for 15 seconds.

Left leg stretch: Hold the back of your left knee with both hands, pull the leg up toward your chest, and slowly straighten the knee until you feel it stretching. Hold for 15 seconds.

  1. Standing Hamstring Stretch

Stand upright with your spine in a neutral position. 
Place your right leg in front of you with your heel on the ground and your foot flexed.  

Have a gentle bend in your left knee.
Gently lean forward and place your hands on your right leg, which should be straight.
Keep a neutral spine.

Hold for 15 seconds and repeat x3 reps, then switch sides.

Hamstrings Strength Exercises

  1. Eccentric Bridge
  • Start with double leg bridges (up on two legs, down on one leg).
  • Progress to: up on two legs, down on the affected side.
  • Lastly progress: upon the affected leg and down on the affected leg.

Best repetitions are 3×12 reps, to begin with, followed by progressions over time to 3×15-20reps.

  1. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift 
  • Stand balancing on your right leg and hold a dumbbell with your left hand in front of your thigh.
  • Sit your hips back as if you were being pulled by a rope attached to your waist., and allow your right knee to bend slightly. Your left leg should be straight (it’s OK if there’s a slight bend in the knee) and in line with your body throughout the rep.
  • Keeping your back flat, continue to bend at the waist until the dumbbell is at about mid-shin height.
  • Drive through your heel and push your hips forward to stand up to the starting position.
  1. Lateral Walks with Band Around Forefoot
  • Start by placing a resistance band around the balls of both feet and take a hip-width stance. 
  • Slightly bend your knees and hinge forward at the hips until your torso is about 30 to 45 degrees. Begin walking like a crab and taking side steps that are a few inches wide while keeping your feet forward.

If you would like to see examples of how these stretches and strength exercises are done then sign up for FREE here!

Don’t let tight hamstrings get in your way…

If you feel pain or have other concerns, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor.

A lot of us know the quadriceps femoris muscles, as our “quads” muscle.

Running, skipping, squatting, and jumping… To do any of these activities you need a strong set of quadriceps.  

Your quadriceps are located in the anterior compartment of your thigh, together with the sartorius muscle, which is a long, narrow muscle running obliquely across the front of each thigh.

Let’s have a look at learning more about our quadriceps, how they work, what can cause tightness in our quads, how you can release tight quads, and how you can strengthen them….

What Causes Tight Quadriceps?

Firstly, it’s quite important to know that your quadriceps femoris is one of the largest and strongest muscles in your body. Each quad is a group of four muscles located at the front of your thigh.

We rely a lot on our quads to do many forms of physical activity, especially running. Therefore they can be prone to injury quite easily.

Those four muscles are primarily responsible for hip flexion and extension at the knee joint, they all attach near your kneecap. 

The primary function of your quadriceps is to extend (straighten) your knee.

Let’s have a quick overview of each of those four muscles…

  1. Rectus Femoris
  2. Vastus Lateralis
  3. Vastus Medialis
  4. Vastus Intermedius

Rectus Femoris

The rectus femoris is responsible for stabilizing and creating flexion at the hip joint. It is the only muscle in the quadriceps group that crosses the hip.

Vastus Lateralis

This muscle is the largest of the quadriceps muscles. In elite athletes, you can actually see this muscle quite prominently on the outside of their thighs. The Vastus Lateralis aids in extending your knee.

Vastus Medialis

This muscle is shaped like a teardrop and runs along the inside of the front of your thigh. It works with the other three muscles to extend the knee as well as stabilize the kneecap. Very often, in runners, this is where there is a weakness and can cause knee issues.

Vastus Intermedius

The Vastus Intermedius muscle lies underneath the other three muscles. The primary function of this muscle is knee extension. 

Now that we know a bit more about our quads, let’s have a look at why they get so tight sometimes…

It might make you feel better to know that tight quadriceps are very common. They can be caused by overuse and underuse.

The problem that comes with tight quads is that they could lead to pain in other parts of your body.

For example, if left untreated, tight quads could lead to postural imbalances and contribute to pain in your lower back because they pull your pelvis down as well as weak hamstring muscles and pain in your hips and knees… very often tightness in muscles is accompanied with weakness too.

This Is Why Your Quads Always Feel Tight

If you have increased your physical activity recently or if you sit for hours without much movement then your quads will feel tight. 

By sitting at your desk all day you reduce the amount of time you spend lengthening and shortening those four muscles we chatted about earlier… therefore those muscles become more resistant to stretching or lengthening as tightness is very often accompanied by a weakness in strength.

The Reasons For Your Tight Quads Can Be Summed Down To:

  • Overtraining/ overuse
  • Lack of movement/ underuse
  • Dehydration (Muscles need water to function optimally)
  • Tightness in another area of your body (Causing you to modify your posture)
  • Certain prescribed medicines can cause muscle stiffness.

If you’re a runner or lead a fairly active lifestyle, or not at all and sit at your desk for most of the day… then chances are very high you’ve had tight quads. This is how you can tell if you’ve got tight quads.

Tight Quad Symptoms

  • Pain and swelling in your thighs
  • Visible inflammation (In extreme cases)
  • Difficulty bending or straightening your knee
  • Pain in your lower back
  • Trouble with your hips or tight hip flexor muscle
  • Knee issues, such as finding it difficult to bend or straighten the knee without pain or discomfort
  • Weakness in your leg and reduced range of motion
  • Sharp pain when running

As powerful as our quads are… we now know they are vulnerable to injuries if they are neglected…

Let’s have a look at ways we can prevent getting tight quads in the first place.

How To Prevent Getting Tight Quadriceps

  1. Warming up properly before any activity.

By warming up you’re trying to kick-start the physiology which is delivering energy to the working muscles and to get the body – in the true sense of the word – warm.

By heating the muscles up they then slide over each other much more easily thereby reducing the risk of injury.

A 5-minute walk or a very very very easy jog early on in the run – even when you’re doing an easy training run – goes a long way. 

Here’s an experiment to do on yourself… if you start running very very easy (don’t worry about pace). 

Let me use myself as an example, my typical training run is between 5:30 and 6:00 per kilometre – and regardless of what intensity run I’m doing, I will typically start somewhere in the region of 6:30 per kilometre. 

I don’t look at my watch. I just start very easy. Within about 5 minutes of exercise, I find myself with not much increase in effort and easily run at my training pace. On those runs when I do that I typically end up running very comfortably at 4:30 and 4:40 per kilometre with very little effort.

On the converse side, If I start out much harder or much closer to your average pace. On those same runs I would start out at 5:30, sometimes when I run with my friends they like to start out quite hard, and I will literally feel like I’m pushing through the whole run just to maintain that pace because I haven’t given my body a chance to adapt to what I am about to do.

  1. Cool down after your activity.

Cooling down allows your body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate to return to their normal levels.

This can be in the form of an easy cool-down walk, light stretch or foam roll. Find out what works for you

We recommend doing dynamic stretches before you run and static stretches after your run, this contributes to blood flow and range of motion.

5 Things To Avoid Doing After Running: Stop Doing This If You Want To Become A Better Runner

  1. Strength training.

Strengthening your quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors can also help reduce your risk of injury. Stronger muscles also provide more support to your joints during your activity.

Eccentric quad exercises are really important to avoid injury as well as prevent muscle soreness after hard running and downhill running. Every time you push off in running your quads contract concentrically. Every time you land on the ground, quads contract eccentrically (acts as a shock absorber) it is here where you get most of the muscle damage. By training quads eccentrically we can reduce the amount of muscle fibre damage done in eccentric contractions

We will get to specific quadriceps strength training exercises further on in this article…

We should first have a look at ways you can release your tight quads.

How To Release Tight Quadriceps

  1. Stretch Those Quads Out

The ends of your quadriceps are at your knees and your hips, this is why tight quads can result in knee pain or even lower back pain…

A few minutes of stretching can save you from those unwanted tight quads, we recommend dynamic stretching before your exercise snd then some static stretching after your exercise, during your cool down. 

Although, Just a few mins of stretching post-run is not going to make a massive difference. This needs to be a focused aspect if one is going to do static stretching. ie. need to set aside some time every day to do some static stretching. 

Mobility work is key as then we are improving the flexibility around several joints and not just one muscle (ie. the hip girdle and the knee as opposed to just stretching the quadricep),

  1. Foam Roll

Foam rolling exercises release tension in the body’s tight spots and muscle tissue to prevent injury, support athletic performance, and increase the quality of soft tissue.

If you’re experiencing pain in your quads as a result of an injury, do not roll directly on the injured spot. Instead, roll away from the pain point to work the connecting muscles.

  • Balance on your elbows in a plank position with your quadriceps on the foam roller.
  • Brace your core and avoid arching or rounding your lumbar spine.
  • Roll from just above the kneecaps to the top of the thighs.

Perform 1–2 sets of 30–90 seconds before or after exercising.

Let’s have a look at those stretches we mentioned earlier…

Quadriceps Stretches

Note: Stretching is important but mobility is key and strength training is vital… without strength training, stretching is very often useless.

  1. Kneeling stretch
  •  Kneel on your right knee and put your left leg out in front of you at a 90-degree angle (As if you were proposing to someone) and curve your pelvis under.
  • Flatten out your lower back and keep your shoulders and chest upright.
  • Bend forward from the hip to your knee even more to stretch the right hip and quad.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and then switch knees.
  1. Standing quad stretch
  • Begin standing, with your left hand holding onto a stable object for support. 
  • Grab your right ankle with your right hand and draw your foot towards your buttocks without arching your low back.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
  1. Side-Lying Stretch
  • Lie down on your side on an exercise mat or towel.
  • Bring your ankle to your buttocks while bringing your arm back and holding on to your foot. 
  • Gently bring your foot into your buttocks, feeling the stretch in the front of your thighs.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side and leg. 

Note: These stretches are meant to be gentle and if any pain is felt while holding them then you should refrain from holding them for the full 30 seconds. 

Quadriceps Strength Exercises

You should be doing eccentric exercises to help strengthen your quads.

Eccentric exercises are slow, lengthening muscle contractions that are for a specific muscle, in this case, your quads. 

An example of an eccentric exercise that you could do is Single Leg Step Down.

  • Start by standing with one foot on a step, and one foot off the ground.
  • Slowly lower the unaffected leg down off the side of the step. Lightly touch your heel to the floor.
  • Return to the original position.
  • Repeat until the number of reps is completed.
  • The Switch legs.

In this video, we share 5 strength training exercises that only take 5 minutes to do and are shockingly simple. 

One of the most common running injuries we get asked about is shin splints and how to get rid of them…

A common misconception about shin splints is that they are an actual condition of the shin bone or tibia.

Shin splints describe the pain felt along the front of your lower leg, at the shin bone. The pain concentrates in your lower leg between your knee and ankle.

The pain can be caused by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue. 

Let’s have a look at what shin splints are in a bit more detail, but more importantly, what is the best way to avoid getting them?

Shin Splints

As we already mentioned, a common misconception about shin splints is that they are an actual condition of the shin bone or tibia.

That is not true. 

Shin splints are normally caused by one of the muscles that are running down the tibia. Typically it is the medial or inside of the shin that normally hurts.

The connective tissues between the muscle and the shin become inflamed and it starts to pull away from the shin, causing shin pain. 

That is really the pain that you are feeling. 

(Side note: extreme levels of pressure and tightness may actually indicate compartment syndrome)

There is, therefore, pressure running through the tibia…

If we don’t treat it and you keep running through the pain, shin splints will ultimately turn into a pre-stress fracture (which is a little bit of bony oedema and bleeding on the actual bone).

Ultimately, if you continue running shin splints, it could turn into a stress fracture of the tibia.

Shin splints are an extremely common novice runner’s injury.

This is because as human beings we are always driven to succeed, improve, go faster, get better and run longer.

Often this is what happens as we always build up too quickly, and we then typically get shin splints.

There are a few other main causes of shin splints…

What Are Shin Splints Caused By?

The most common causes of shin splints:

  • Doing too much too soon.
  • Running in the incorrect running shoes.
  • Not having a body that is adapted for exercise.
  • Stress reactions to bone fractures.

How To Tell If You Are At Risk Of Getting Shin Splints?

There are a few risk factors to consider that give you a higher chance of getting shin splints…

  • Not having a body that is adapted for exercise, such as flat foot syndrome.
  • muscle weakness in your thighs or buttocks
  • Lack of mobility
  • Running on a slanted surface or uneven terrain
  • Running on hard surfaces
  • Using worn-out shoes

Let’s chat a bit about the recovery process…

How long do shin splints take to heal?

There’s no way to say exactly when you will be fully recovered from your shin splints…

It really depends on what caused them. People also heal at different rates. 

When you feel that you are recovered, you should make sure to properly warm up (LINK) and, you should do so gradually over a few weeks. 

Try to start out running on soft, level ground, and wear the correct shoes.

Don’t Ignore The Pain From Shin Splints

A major issue with shin splints is people tend to ignore the pain.

Pain is a signal from your body telling you something isn’t right…

Runners think it will get better as they get a little bit fitter but that is generally not the case. This is why people often end up with quite a serious case of shin splints.

The good news is, that even if it is serious, it shouldn’t take more than two weeks to deal with the actual pain.

How To Get Rid Of Shin Splints

To heal shin splints from the acute phase can take anywhere in the region of 48 hours to two weeks, depending on how far you pushed yourself into the pain.

  • The first thing you need to do is rest.

I know, it’s the last thing a runner wants to hear…

…but continuing to run is just going to make the shin splints worse.

You can also take an anti-inflammatory if needed to help speed up recovery, but this is not a long-term solution and should be recommended by a doctor.

  • The second thing you need to do is run an ice pack over the affected shins for 20 minutes three times a day.

This will also help settle the inflammation.

Exercises like toe raise and forward & lateral band walks, for example, are perfect.

  • And then lastly, grab a foam roller and foam roll your legs. 

In summary…

What you can do right now to heal shin splints fast:

  • Rest (Take an anti-inflammatory, if needed, to settle the inflammation)
  • Run an ice pack over the affected area 3 times a day for 20 minutes
  • Strength training twice a week
  • Foam rolling daily

So avoiding shin splints altogether would be the best-case scenario, but how do you not get shin splints?

How to prevent shin splints in the first place

  1. Get Proper Running Shoes

When people start running they very seldom start off in the right pair of running shoes.

They decide they want to start running to get fit and improve the quality of their life or to run a marathon. 

Whatever the reason is, they go into their closet and pull out whatever shoes they’ve got in there.

Their excitement and exuberance to get started, plus very often incorrect footwear is a lethal combination when it comes to shin splints.

How To Choose The Correct SIZE Running Shoe For YOU: 3 Simple Hacks To Get The Perfect Fit 

  1. Strength & Conditioning Training To Get Rid of Shin Splints

Here are some of the things you can do from a strength and conditioning perspective to prevent and treat shin splints as a runner…

Strength and conditioning won’t directly help with your shin splints…

Essentially, shin splints are mostly caused by an overload issue and by an imbalance between your anterior and posterior compartments between your lower limbs…

The strength work that you should be looking at…

There is a muscle in the front of the shin called the tibialis anterior, this muscle is the one people tend to worry about because it gets very tight and starts to spasm. This muscle is not there for shock absorption… 

So when people ask if you can do strength training for shin splints… the answer is yes, but to strengthen that muscle, which is responsible for bringing your toes up (dorsiflexion). 

So really, if you’re strengthening that muscle, all you’re doing is improving your dorsiflexion not preventing shin splints. 

What we recommend is strengthening your pelvic stability, hip girdle, glutes, and definitely your inner thigh muscles. 

It’s important for people to know that if you are experiencing shin splints, it may not be an issue directly connected to your shins but rather in that chain like your hips, knees, or even shoes. 

You can download our free strength program: HERE

  1. Build up really slowly

Follow a structured running training plan that will give your body time to adapt to the increased training…

If during your slow build-up, the pain returns, I would then suggest that you go see a physiotherapist.

Couple that with seeing a biokineticist because there is most probably a good chance then that you have an imbalance between your anterior and posterior compartments as we call it.

Effectively what that means is: The muscles on the front of your leg are stronger or weaker than the muscles on the back of your leg.

As a result… there is strain being placed on those anterior muscles causing them to get inflamed.

When To See a Doctor

If your pain has not been relieved by rest, ice, anti-inflammatory tablets, or foam rolling, then it is a good idea to make an appointment and your orthopedist or GP as they will be able to diagnose the exact source of your pain and recommend a treatment plan.

Strong female runner

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The Running Through Menopause Masterclass

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If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

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Plantar fasciitis can be extremely debilitating for a runner!

I mean… nothing can disrupt normal daily living or your exercise routine quite as much as a pain that keeps you from literally moving around…

Known as one of the most common orthopedic complaints… Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the bottom of your heel or on other parts underneath your feet. The plantar fascia is a thick, weblike ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It acts as a shock absorber and supports the arch of your foot to help you run and walk.

Let’s have a look at how you can treat an inflamed plantar fascia and prevent painful feet when running, as well as exercises that you can do at home that will help you heal and prevent plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis

The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain at the bottom of your heel or sometimes at the bottom midfoot area. It usually affects just one foot, but it can affect both of your feet.

Symptoms also include pain that is worse in the morning or when you stand after sitting for a long time or a swollen heel.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Like with most injuries, it’s very seldom that there is one specific cause of that injury…

A few known causes of Plantar Fasciitis include:

Running shoes that have run their course & don’t provide enough support.
– Running long distances on beach sand.
– Tightness in calf muscles (soleus).
– Being overweight is a risk factor.
– Extreme inflexibility in the plantar fascia.
– Tight Achilles’ tendons and structural abnormalities, like having flat feet.

So… What do we do once we have it?

How Do You Fix Plantar Fasciitis?

We recommend rolling your plantar fasciitis gently with ice, you could freeze a bottle of water and just gently roll that on the bottom of your foot – where the pain is. You could then use a golf/cricket ball and actually massage under your feet.

Strengthening exercises will also help with plantar fasciitis.

Put a towel underneath your feet on a tiled floor. Then use your toes to pull that towel and scrunch it up under your feet. So you’re almost doing “bicep curls” with your toes to strengthen your plantar fascia.

If the pain doesn’t improve after doing these things, you should make an appointment with a sports doctor – to ensure it isn’t more serious than you might think.

How to Treat & Prevent Plantar Fasciitis in Runners (Plus Exercises To Do At Home For Pain Relief)

Being runners ourselves… We understand how difficult it is to take a break…

Does Running With Plantar Fasciitis Make It Worse?

YES! Running with plantar fasciitis will make it worse.

If you continue to run with plantar fasciitis, you will cause additional damage to the plantar fasciitis ligament, worsening the condition and causing more pain that could make even walking difficult. 

As we always say…. REST is a four-letter word no runners want to hear….

How To Keep Up Your Training When You Have Plantar Fasciitis?

Stop! 

This really depends on where on the foot it’s sore and whether it’s getting worse or not while you are exercising. 

If it’s getting worse, then don’t carry on with your training, otherwise, it’s going to get worse and worse until you can’t run even if you wanted to.

Cross-training is advisable, like stationary cycling, or perhaps some work on the elliptical, or even swimming. These are things you can do to maintain your fitness.

Note: It is possible to figure out what is causing the pain. It could even be a lack of support in your shoes…

Make Plantar Fasciitis Disappear For Good!

As we mentioned above, the pain could be coming from your shoes or there could even be a  problem with actual weakness in the underside of your foot. 

A little muscle, the fascia that connects your heel to your toes, is responsible for curling your toes.

To strengthen that, do the towel method as we said above but also get your shoes checked out, the shoes may also be allowing a little bit too much play. 

They could also be a little bit hard, in which case your foot is going to be sliding too much across the top of the shoe. Because the foot is not able to settle into the shoe nicely.

Orthotic Inserts To Help With Plantar Fasciitis

Supporting your arch with orthotics is a good way to protect your plantar fascia while it heals.

I wouldn’t use orthotic inserts as a preventative measure but they could certainly help with the healing process.

Let’s have a look at an ultimate plantar fasciitis checklist...

Checklist For Sorting Out Plantar Fasciitis

  1. Make sure you are in the correct shoes.
  1. Strength exercises.
  • Tennis Ball Roll

Place a tennis ball, rolling pin, frozen water bottle, or other cylindrical objects under your foot and gently roll.

  • Towel Stretch 

As explained earlier.

  • Toe Stretch

In a seated position, push your leg out so that just your heel is on the floor. Bend down and grab your big toe, bending it backward (Gently). Flex your ankle.

  • Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall or something to lean onto, with one foot in front of the other (the back foot is the one with plantar fasciitis). Keeping the back leg straight, lean your weight forward, bending into the front knee. (Make sure your back heel stays on the ground).

  1. If 1 & 2 don’t help then visit a Podiatrist.
  1. Take anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen to help reduce pain and swelling.
  1. Regular icing to help reduce pain and swelling. 
  1. Stretching of the calf muscles, and when less painful introduce stretching of the plantar fascia.
  1. Reduce training volume and include cross-training.

Download one of our free, world-famous strength training plans: Here

A lot of people don’t know that the term “Runners Knee” is a broad term used to describe the pain you feel if you have one of several knee problems. 

You might have heard a doctor call it Patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome can be better understood as…

Pain around the front of the knee (patella). This is where the knee connects with the lower end of the thigh bone (femur).

Let’s have a deeper look into Patellofemoral pain or… more commonly known as runner’s knee…

What Is Runners Knee?

Most of the big five fall into the overuse category, but like shin splints, runners knee or patella-femoral knee pain, in particular, does come down to people building up too quickly.

We have got four muscles that make up our quadriceps, (quad meaning four).  

You’ve got a little guy called the Vastus Medialis oblique which is primarily responsible for stabilizing your patella. 

Then you’ve got some pretty big muscles too…

The point is when you’ve been inactive for some time your proprioception or the body’s ability to adjust itself to protect the joints is one of the things that becomes the most compromised. 

Those big quad muscles will stay quite big and they will work quite well but your Vastus Medialis oblique is probably not going to work so well. 

This results in some misalignment with your patella tracking. Particularly If you build up too quickly and you don’t give your body a chance for that Vastus Medialis oblique to start activating as it should and to start getting a little bit stronger… in a nutshell, it will lead to problems such as pain, particularly in and around your knee cap.

Similarly, if you have some biomechanical issues you may pick up Runner’s knee…

Your quadriceps run into your patella tendon and your quadriceps tendon runs over and around the patella and becomes the patella tendon that joins the leg on the tibia or below the knee. 

If you have some imbalances or problems with biomechanics in particular then you can get that pulling on the patella at an angle and that can also cause you some patella-femoral pain or some irritation of the knee cap.

It may seem obvious but if you are going to start running in squash shoes or in the shoes you had in high school, you are going to run into problems. 

Often when people who have been running for years develop Runners knee or patella-femoral knee pain it is very often in response to their shoes.

This Is How To Tell You Need New Running Shoes

The knee is one of those joints that really needs to work in one plane. 

Your knee joint opens and closes, which is pretty much what it does. Where you have other joints like your ankle or your hip and they’re a little more forgiving because they move in multiple directions…

So if imbalance creeps in or if there is another injury and you come back from that injury but it has caused some change or shift in your running gait and you finally find yourself in a position where you are landing on the ground and your knee is no longer able to move in just that straight plain thereby causing a bit of stress on the knee….That could also potentially cause patella-femoral knee pain.

Symptoms Of Runners Knee

There are 3 main symptoms of Runner’s knee.

  1. Pain
  • Pain in/ around your kneecap that happens when you are exercising.
  • As well as pain after sitting for a long time with the knees bent. 
  1. Grinding Sounds
  • Rubbing, grinding, or clicking sound of the kneecap that you hear when you bend and straighten your knee.
  1. Tender Kneecap
  • If your Kneecap is tender to the touch.

How Is Runner’s Knee Diagnosed?

Healthcare providers can diagnose Runner’s knee by looking at your health history and by conducting a physical exam, possibly using an X-ray machine.

Let’s have a look at some of the main reasons why you could experience Runner’s knee…

Causes Of Runners Knee

  1. Overtraining
  2. An Imbalance
  3. Not Warming Up Correctly
  4. Knee Trauma

Overtraining

Long periods of overtraining can cause runner’s knee in even the most experienced athletes. This is why proper recovery is so important. 

By not recovering properly, and if you continue to follow your running program without strategically planning rest days, you are at risk of injuries like patellofemoral syndrome.

An Imbalance

Our knees sit between our ankles and hips, so if there is an imbalance or dysfunction in either our ankles or our hips… there is a higher chance that we will experience runners knee.

Not Warming Up Correctly

If you want to avoid getting injured as a runner, only running is not enough!

In the video below, we walk you through exactly what to do before every run that you do.

It only takes a few minutes but if you start doing this as part of your pre-run routine, you can save yourself a lot of time and heartache down the line because of training missed due to injuries

Knee Trauma

When an accident happens and it involves a direct impact on your kneecap… it can lead to inflammation and therefore Runner’s knee.

Now that we know the causes of Runner’s knee, the good news is that it is treatable!

How To Treat Runners Knee

Firstly and very importantly, rest. 

We then need to wake up that Vastus Medialis oblique and that is not a difficult thing to do…

It’s done in two ways:

Strength Exercises

This would involve 30-degree squats (or even less if there is a pain), a little pain-free range of motion such as single-leg squats, single-leg press-ups, and step-ups onto a very low step at first.

We’ll have a detailed look at strength training exercises for Runner’s knee in the next section.

Work On The Proprioception Simultaneously

The easiest way to do this is to stand on a thick carpet or rug, balance on one leg, and close your eyes. 

That will throw yourself completely out of kilter and all the muscles in your ankle, in your bum, and around the knee that are supposed to stabilize those joints will be forced to engage better because there will be an exaggeration of the movement.

As you repeat that over time, that loss of balance will get smaller and smaller as those proprioceptors do their job, your Vastus Medialis oblique will be doing its job better and your runner’s knee or patella-femoral knee pain shouldn’t be bothering you anymore.

As we mentioned above, our strength & conditioning expert Shona Hendricks talks about what strength training you can do to prevent Runner’s knee. 

Strength Training for Runner’s Knee

To prevent knee pain when running, download our free strength program here.

Have you ever felt a sharp pain or ache on the outside of your knee, which even spreads up or down your leg, and occasionally up towards your hip.

The pain sometimes starts when you begin to run and then stops when you stop running…

Well, if the outside of your knee is tender to the touch and you have some swelling… chances are VERY high that you are suffering from Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB).

The IT band is a ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh, from the top of the hip to the outside of the knee. IT band syndrome happens when that ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh thickens and rubs the knee bone, causing inflammation and pain.

Let’s have a deeper look into what IT Band Syndrome is…

IT Band Syndrome

Your iliotibial band commonly referred to as your IT band, is a long piece of connective tissue that runs from your outer hip to your knee.

The purpose of your IT band is to help stabilize your knee when you’re walking or running.

ITB is common in runners due to tension in the ITB due to tight hip flexors, tight quads, weak glutes, weak abdominals, and weak hips.

Now that we know what it is… How do we prevent getting it in the first place?

How To Prevent Getting IT Band Syndrome

One can prevent getting ITB by maintaining a really good range of motion in the hips, by maintaining flexibility in the hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors. 

Flexibility in the hip flexors needs to be maintained in particular because we spend a lot of our time sitting at desks and driving cars. 

ITB often starts from us just sitting too often for too long periods. What we notice is that there is a slight turning in of the femur (which is the thigh bone) and that causes tightening up of the glutes and the glute medius as well as the tensor fascia lata (which goes straight into the Iliotibial Band) and that is what tightens that system up and causes it to catch on the Bursa.

  • Having nice, strong glutes will help to pull that femur back into the position it is supposed to be in. 
  • Stretching your hip flexors will help you to have a good range of motion and take pressure off that whole system. 

This FREE STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM will definitely help you strengthen those glutes and stretch your hip flexors. 

What To Do If You Experience Iliotibial Band Syndrome While Training

If you’re in the middle of a big training block and say for example you’re training for a marathon coming up… and all of sudden you start showing symptoms of ITB…

This is what you need to do:

Firstly, the good news is that ITB is hardly ever solved with rest.

ITB is what we call a low-level inflammatory disease, basically… you only feel it when you are running. 

The fact that you only feel ITB when you are running means that your body doesn’t see it as a priority because it’s actually not that debilitating.

Even when you are running and feel the pain, it’s more irritating than too painful to stop running. 

If you experience ITB while training we recommend cutting back on your running mileage and the intensity you are running your runs at. 

The most important thing to do with Iliotibial Band Syndrome is that if you DON’T treat it then you WILL struggle with it for months and months.

On that note… let’s see how you can treat ITB

If ITB is stopping you from running then Brad and Shona have the strength training solution for you:

IT Band Syndrome Treatment

  • Hip flexor stretches
  • Glute strengthening
  • Visit a physiotherapist to help with the inflammation and to assess if it is the actual cause. 

We would go as far as to say that 9 out of 10 Iliotibial Band Syndrome cases are caused by a combination of overuse and very tight hip flexors.

The initial treatment for ITB syndrome should aim to reduce your pain and inflammation. 

Further treatment includes physiotherapy to gradually get you back to your usual activities.

Most people recover and can go back to sports or running within four to six weeks.

IT Band Syndrome & Foam Rolling

A lot of people have asked us if foam rolling can help treat ITB and the jury is out…

Massage does work and foam rolling is a type of massage, although using a foam roller while your ITB is inflamed will actually worsen the pain.

For this type of injury and particularly where it’s hard to get the right kind of pressure on it, we recommend using a golf ball or a good old baking rolling pin to get in there. 

As we mentioned above, to REALLY release your hip flexors we recommend physiotherapy.

Exercises That Cure ITB Super Fast

As we touched on earlier, the causes of ITB essentially stem from a lack of strength, which would then cause biomechanical issues. 

The aim of these exercises is to strengthen the pelvic area (being the glutes and hip area) as well as your posterior chain (being your hamstrings and glutes).

What happens when you have ITB is that your hips start to become internally rotated, so if you can keep your hips open, it will keep your whole running gait in check.

Running is catabolic and is a repetitive motion, so you need to ensure that you have the strength to sustain that repetitive motion.

An inflamed ITB is uncomfortable, annoying, and can be painful… let’s have a look at some of the things you can do to alleviate the pain

What To Do If You Have ITB Syndrome

From a strength and conditioning point of view… There are a couple of things one can do but first, we need to remember that ITB can become chronic really quickly.

You should not try to run through Iliotibial Band Syndrome. We know runners tend to run through pain …  and that is just not ideal. 

You need to try and prevent it from becoming chronic because then it becomes really difficult to get rid of ITB Syndrome.

Firstly, we suggest a little bit of extra Rest, although unfortunately in this situation it’s not like shin splints, where the rest will fix it…

A little bit of rest will help relieve that compounding effect.

Secondly, in strength training, specifically, while you are strengthening your posterior chain, you should aim to loosen up or stretch your hip flexors. 

The combination of stretching your hip flexors and strengthening your glutes & hips will make a HUGE difference.

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…