Whether you are running to burn calories to get in shape or to take a break from a stressful life, you might have heard that running can damage your feet. While that statement is not entirely correct as long as you move correctly, you can actually injure yourself if you push yourself too hard. The foot is incredibly complex. It is made of a network of bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles that work together in harmony. If one part is damaged, your whole foot will stop working properly. Here are some of the more important running injuries and how to treat them.


Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee is a broad term to describe several conditions that cause pain around the knee cap. Doctors call it patellofemoral pain syndrome. Although running is a common cause of runner’s knee, any activity that repeatedly stresses the knee joint can cause this condition. It is more common in women than in men, and people who are overweight are prone to this condition. Several things can cause it, such as overuse, a direct hit to the knee, and weak or unbalanced thigh muscles. The main symptom is pain, especially when you bend your knees to walk, squatting, running, sitting down for a long time, or climbing stairs. Other symptoms like swelling and popping in the knee may also occur. 

You may want to see your doctor to treat the condition. The first step of treatment is to practice RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). You can also take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. Once the pain and swelling have subsided, you may need specific exercises or physical therapy to restore the knee’s full strength. If your cartilage is damaged or your kneecap needs to be realigned, your doctor may recommend surgery. 

Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is a tiny crack in a bone that causes pain. It is usually caused by a sudden and rapid increase in training intensity before your body gets used to a new activity or when you step awkwardly on a rock or pothole. Repetitive force and medical conditions such as osteoporosis can also cause a stress fracture. The symptoms are hardly noticeable at first, but you may notice pain that tends to worsen with time. You might also have swelling around the area which is painful.

If you think you have a stress fracture, it is advisable to see your doctor as soon as possible. Do not ignore the pain because it may lead to serious conditions because your bone may break completely. The first aid to treat a stress fracture is to follow the RICE regimen. You can also take NSAIDs to help relieve pain. Once you see your doctor, you may be recommended to wear protective footwear, casting, and modify your activities. Some stress fractures need surgery to heal properly. 

Muscle Pull

Also known as a muscle strain, muscle pull is a small tear in your muscle, usually caused by overstretching a muscle. When the muscle tears, you may feel a popping sensation. The tearing of the muscle can damage small blood vessels, resulting in bruising or local bleeding and pain caused by irritation of the nerve endings in the area. This condition can cause pain and limit movement around the affected muscle group. It commonly affects hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, and groin. Symptoms of muscle pull are:

  • Swelling or bruising 
  • A weakness of the muscle or tendons
  • Inability to use the muscle
  • A sudden rush of pain
  • Limited range of movement
  • Stiffness.

Mild to moderate muscle pull can be treated at home with taking rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). You can also take anti-inflammatory medications. However, severe tears may require medical treatment. If your pain does not subside after a week, you can’t walk, or there’s blood coming from your injury, you may want to seek medical attention immediately. 

Ankle Sprain

An ankle sprain is an injury that happens when the ligaments in your ankle tear or get stretched too much. Ligaments are the tough band of tissue that surrounds and connect the bones of the leg to the foot. Ligaments help stabilize joints to prevent excessive movement. The injury may happen when you accidentally twist your ankle in an awkward way beyond their normal range of motion. The symptoms vary depending on the severity of the injury, including:

  • Swelling and bruising
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Tenderness when you touch your ankle
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Skin discoloration.


To decrease pain, swelling, and protect the ligaments from further injury, you can use the RICE regimen (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). You can also use elastic bandages to wrap your ankle (not too tightly) and take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. It is best to talk to your doctor when you suspect a sprain. If the signs and symptoms are severe, you may have significant damage or a broken bone. Although surgery for sprained ankles is rare, it may be performed when other treatments were unsuccessful. The surgical options are arthroscopy and reconstruction.