Sore from running—Injury prevention?
I've been running at least two miles every day and I find that nothing is wrong with me physically except that at night my Achilles heel is somewhat sore. What do you think the reason is? I stretch enough before exercising and it still hurts. Am I running too much or with too much frequency?
Also, I'm trying to lose some fat or gain some muscle for that matter, and I've lost quite a bit of weight but the last few pounds are a bit difficult to take off. What do you suggest? More aerobic training, low fat diet or strength training?
Dear Achilles heel,
Running is a great cardiovascular workout. A major drawback, however, is the stress from the impact of your feet hitting the ground. The shock from each collision propagates through your joints and ligaments and causes wear and tear over time. As a result, the Achilles tendon which attaches the bone of the heel and the calf muscle may become damaged and inflamed—a condition known as tendinitis. Some other common runner's injuries include: runner's knee, heel spurs, tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), and plantar fasciitis. Fortunately, there are ways to decrease the risks of injury and strain.
As you allude to, proper warming up, stretching, and cooling down are key elements of injury prevention. Seeing a health care provider and decreasing your level activity until the pain subsides may help you prevent a more serious injury. Enough rest is an essential part of building strength and running capacity. If you're running every day, you may consider cutting back the number of days per week you run. Some people choose an alternate aerobic activity on non-running days, such as biking or swimming. Cross-training can give your body a chance to heal the microtears caused by pounding the pavement and it can target muscle groups that aren't engaged by running.
Another consideration may be what’s on your feet. Running shoes, as opposed to casual sneakers, provide better support and cushioning; they're lighter and allow feet to "breathe." Stores specializing in athletic shoes can help you find the optimal fit for your feet’s arches and your unique running gait. A general rule of thumb, however, is to replace running shoes about every 300 to 500 miles or six months of use which can be rather expensive. Still, waiting too long to change shoes may increase risk of injury and soreness.
Where you run may also influence the impact of your workout. You may have noticed different levels of soreness depending on the types of surfaces traversed. Two miles on a hard surface can certainly be tough on the body; level pavement and asphalt are harder than the dirt and gravel of trail running. Whether it is uphill, downhill, irregular, or uneven, the grade of the terrain also affects where strain is placed on the body. Well-maintained grass provides lots of padding and an additional workout for leg and ankle muscles. Running on a sandy beach not only makes for social media content, but it’s a softer surface that is shock absorbent.
Regarding weight loss, supplementing your running workouts with weight training could provide benefits such as increasing muscle mass and boosting your metabolism. Because of your soreness, however, it may be beneficial to talk first with your health care provider before intensifying training to prevent further injury or strain. Weight-loss plateaus can be very frustrating and after your provider approves resuming your training, you may consider consulting a nutrition and exercise professional to help you figure out the best way to reach your health goals.
Cheers to overcoming what Achilles could not!
Originally published Mar 01, 1994
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