Beat the Seven Body Breakdowns

Prevent and recover from the seven most common running injuries

by Christine Aschwanden

stress fracture, running injury, prevent running injury
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7. Stress Fracture

Unlike acute fractures resulting from slips or falls, stress fractures develop as a result of cumulative strain on the bone.

They're no picnic, though. In fact, they're one of the most serious running injuries, striking runners most often in their tibias (shin), metatarsals (feet), or calcaneus bones (heels). Six per cent of RW survey respondents have been struck in the past year.

Are you at risk?
Are you overtraining? Give yourself an honest answer. Bones need downtime to rebuild after workouts and if you increase the duration, intensity or frequency of your running too soon, your bones can't repair themselves fast enough.

Stress fractures are more common in women than men, usually because of nutritional deficits, low oestrogen levels and inadequate calorie intake. Luckily, weight-bearing exercise like running is actually protective, which means experience is on your side: "The longer you've been running, the lower your risk," says Price.

Can you run through it?
In a word: no. Expect to have to take eight to 16 weeks off, depending on the location and severity of the fracture.

Bones in the foot heal slower than those in the shin, for example. Run through the pain and you'll be spending some more time on the sofa, warns Merrill. Avoid all impact exercise - aqua run and swim instead.

Rehab it
Listen to your body. "Once you can walk without pain, try a bit of jogging," says Price. "Back off if there's lingering pain, and it's crucial to build your mileage slowly - start with just a few minutes."

Prevent a relapse
Improve bone density with weight training, and make sure you're getting enough calories and nutrients.

Also, running surfaces don't seem to make a difference: "It makes sense that soft surfaces would be better for you than roads, but studies have not borne that out," says Price.

Elite tip
Maintain your fitness by introducing  aqua running to your training regime. "When [US long-distance runner] Deena Kastor broke a bone in her foot during the 2008 Olympic Marathon, she had to take six weeks off for recovery," says Price. "Daily pool running kept her strong."

Bone breaker: How to proceed

Stop running
Pain builds as you run, but doesn't stop when you stop. Just being on your feet is uncomfortable.

Run with caution
Sorry, there's no middle ground here. With this one, it's either red or green.

Go run!
Pain-free during a run and no lingering pain after - even when you've been on your feet all day.

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ASICS Super Six Podcast: Avoiding Injury with Sarah Connors


Discuss this article

Ballet foot exercises work really well for the plantar fasciitis.  They sorted my pain right out.  I have also started doing planks which seem to be helping as well.

Posted: 19/08/2011 at 22:52

They forgot the most obvious and common one. The stomach! Affects 1/3 of runners, if previous articles are to believed, and causes inescapable misery that can strike no matter how fit you are, no matter how much training you've done.

Posted: 23/08/2011 at 20:56

Great article! I have stopped running for just on 7 weeks with plantar fasciitis and am desperate to start running again, but still experiencing pain so not in the ''Go run!'' zone just yet...... Kimberlee, are ballet foot excercises just pointing and straightening your toes??

Posted: 23/08/2011 at 23:58

I have been diagnosed with Runner's Knee.  I'm finding it a long and slow rehab process.  I originally stopped running for a month (after attempting a couple of runs and being in pain throughout).  Since then the knee has got better, but it's still very painful after about 5k.  To the point that I can't actually run much further than this at the moment.

I've been given lots of physio and strengthening exercises to do.  Just feel quite depressed at the moment as nothing seems to be helping.  Maybe I want a quick fix and it's not going to be one.  I am signed up for a half marathon in October and really not sure whether to pull out.

Posted: 25/08/2011 at 12:49

Listen to your body.

If you are training for say a marathon or half marathon where the volume of training will require you to run consistently for maybe five days a week you are bound to feel tired either due to overtraining or general fatigue.

There are certain runners who feel that if they miss even a single training session then their fitness will suffer.

Wearing ill fitting shoes or running when feeling unwell due to a heavy cold or such like can result in muscle injury.

Simply over doing it and not listening to your body can result in injuries.

Check your heartrate regularly and if it's abnormally high think of some other form of excercise or even rest.

The secret to successfull running is to remain injury free and with a little sense and listening to your body injury's are not inevitable


Posted: 11/10/2011 at 16:23

what about back pain? i'm always suffering with it post-run, and have tried backward stretches lying on my tummy, but it hasn't helped. and when i lower my legs for 'that' ab exercise i get a clunking sound... i don't really have the time or inclination to start yoga...
Posted: 08/02/2012 at 11:06

Hey not sure if you still use this, but i have the same thing and feeling the exact same way, how are you getting on? did you manage to get rid of it and run your half marathon?
Posted: 22/04/2012 at 19:32

I'm always amazed by how little sports massage is cited in these articles. It's used by every Premier League football team, every professional rugby team, every top athlete and thousands of amateur sports people. It was part of the medical services team at the 2012 Games (250 therapists!) and at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. It was in greater demand from athletes than any other therapy------and yet the most common recommendation for soft tissue problems is self applied foam rolling! Yikes! 

Is there any reason your experts seem to largely ignore this key component of soft tissue prehab and rehab? For the record I come from an utterly biased standpoint as Chair of the Sports Massage Association.

Posted: 01/10/2014 at 14:22

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