Most runners experience a nagging injury at one point or another.

Whether it’s a minor ache, a tight hamstring, knee pain, or tendinitis, these injuries turn your enjoyable run into an activity that can only be done with some degree of discomfort.

Sometimes these minor injuries disappear on their own. Other times what you think is a minor ache turns into a more serious injury – particularly when mileage isn’t reduced to heal the minor injury when it first appears.

Certain muscle groups are prone to injury due to the physical demands of running. Through research and our strength-training experience, we identified six areas of the body that are particularly susceptible to injury for runners. If you don’t address these issues now they could force you to take time off in the future.

1) Runner’s Knee (patellofemoral syndrome)

Patellofemoral syndrome, or runner’s knee, is the irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap.

Who is at Risk?
Anyone with faulty running biomechanics who does not have strong and well-balanced quads, hips and glutes, is at risk of developing “runner’s knee”.

How To Prevent & Rehab Runner’s Knee
Progressing through corrective exercises that focus on single-leg strength and flexibility are key to protecting a runner’s knee. Once the quadriceps, hips, and gluteal muscles are appropriately balanced, the athlete can progress to more traditional strength exercises like squats.

2) Achilles Tendinitis

The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed resulting in tendinitis.

Who is at Risk?
Runners who dramatically increase their mileage and have tight, weak calves are at risk of developing Achilles tendonitis.

How To Prevent & Rehab Achilles Tendinitis
Strengthening the calves through progressive exercises that isolate different components of the calf muscles will improve the flexibility and strength of the Achilles tendon. Strong calves are critical for runners. Not only do strong and flexible calves prevent tendonitis, but they also provide support for the ankle and stabilizes the knee joint. Furthermore, strong calves enable a runner to push harder off the ground.

3) Hamstring Issues

Strong hamstrings are critical for proper running mechanics; they activate to “bend” the knee and also extend the hip. Strong hamstrings also absorb the ground impact forces associated with running, improve a runner’s hill climbing ability, and enable a stronger, more powerful finish-line kick.

Who is at Risk?
Hamstring problems are often a result of them being weak. Weak hamstrings are often overly-flexible, which makes them more vulnerable to injury.

However, those who have tight hamstrings (i.e. can barely touch their toes), are also at risk because tight, short hamstrings are under more tension and “over-stretching” a tight muscle can cause injury.

How To Prevent & Rehab Hamstring Injuries
Because hamstrings are bi-articular muscles (acting to both bend the knee and extend the hip), their contraction cannot be isolated to only the knee or only the hip. Therefore, both functions of the hamstrings should be strengthened for optimal development.

Exercise variations that train the knee flexion component and the hip extension component of the hamstrings should be included in your strength training program at certain times of the year.

ankle imjury4) Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a flat band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. Under too much stress, this tissue can become irritated causing pain in the bottom of the foot.

Who is at Risk?
Runners who excessively roll their foot inwards or outwards have issues with plantar fasciitis. Increasing mileage too quickly is another common cause because the plantar fascia becomes over-stretched, causing irritation and inflammation of the tissue.

Tight hip flexors, calves, and hamstrings, combined with a weak lower back are common causes of plantar fasciitis. Tightness and weakness in these muscles causes other muscles to overcompensate, altering a runner’s stride and placing undue stress on the plantar fascia (and other areas of the body).

How To Prevent & Rehab Plantar Fasciitis
Strengthening the lower back, hamstrings, and calves is a good place to start. While these muscles aren’t necessarily all connected muscularly they are connected via fascia – a thin sheath of fibrous tissue. If the fascia connecting these muscles gets “knotted up” anywhere along the pathway to the heel, it can lead to plantar fasciitis.

5) Shin Splints

“Shin-Splints” occur when small tears develop in the muscles around the tibia (shin bone). They are often considered overuse injuries and may result in hairline fractures.

Who is at Risk?
Shin splints are a common injury among new runners and those who have recently returned to running after extended time off. Typically, shin splints are an indication of increased mileage too soon. Shin splints affect runners with weak core, calf and shin muscles.

How To Prevent & Rehab Shin Splints
The most efficient way to prevent shin splints is to ensure you have a proper fitting shoe, gradually increase mileage, and strengthen the shin muscles. The anterior and posterior tibialis muscles can be strengthened with exercises such as anterior tibialis raises.

6) Iliotibial Band Syndrome

The iliotibial (IT) band extends along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee. Running causes the IT band to “rub” against the side of the femur. Over time, especially in those who have faulty running mechanics and/or weak hip abductors and gluteal muscles, this constant rubbing can cause irritation and inflammation of the IT band.

Who is at Risk?
Irritation of the IT band generally affects those who increase mileage too quickly, have a leg-length discrepancy, or have weak hip abductors and gluteal muscles. Weakness in these muscles can disrupt hip motion and ultimately lead to faulty running mechanics, which can over-stretch the IT band, causing irritation.

How To Prevent & Rehab IT Band Injuries
The best way to prevent and rehab IT band syndrome is to strengthen the hip abductors and gluteal muscles. Additionally, strengthening the adductors, quadriceps, and hamstrings can improve running mechanics by improving stride length and increasing stride frequency