What Causes Running Injuries?

Understanding what causes common running injuries is the first step in preventing them. Below, Calvin Deutsch, a Sports Physical Therapist with Deutsch Physiotherapy Co., explains common causes of running injuries.

This is Part 2 in his series about running injury treatment and prevention. You can read Part 1 here: https://keeprunningmke.com/2014/05/06/treatments-for-common-running-injuries/

What are some of the most common reasons runners get injured?
The number one reason I think runners get injured is loss of mobility/flexibility somewhere in their body that drives some type of compensatory reaction somewhere else. A perfect example is how low back and hip stiffness mixed with mild overstriding can cause IT Band Syndrome. The IT Band is put on repetitive excessive tension because the hip/low back cannot move appropriately at the end of the stride and it is only a matter of time before that runner develops outer knee pain. Another example is loss of ankle mobility causing overpronation at the foot which will result in a number of issues including Plantar Fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis

Follow this link to see good video examples of mobility exercises:

Hip Flexor Stretch
Prone Press Up
Ankle Mobility

The number two reason is weakness, primarily of the hips. Performing the right strength exercises can remedy this deficit, but it takes time. Weak hip muscles allow excessive motion of the leg during the landing phase and this can cause repetitive strain to the back, hip, knee and lower leg.

Follow this link to see good video examples of strengthening exercises:

Hip/Trunk strengthening

Third would be simple training errors. This includes improper progressions in mileage, inappropriate speed/track/hill workouts, lack of variation in training route, etc.

The biggest thing to understand about injuries is that exercise is a balance between tissue damage and repair. Exercise therapeutically micro-damages your muscles, tendons and bones. This damage stimulates your body to repair and improve itself by building bigger muscles and tendons that can handle more strain and build stronger denser bones. Balancing your training load with active recovery strategies is fundamental.

Can you talk a bit about the roles that diet, sleep and stress play in running injuries?
Diet, sleep and stress are fundamental elements for any person and even more relevant for an athlete.

I used to view food as primarily fuel and always thought that your diet’s main purpose was to provide energy. As I obtained my education, I came to understand food as not only fuel, but as the literal building blocks of tissue health, repair and sustainability. There is no way that your muscles, bones and other systems can function at a high level within the context of a bad diet.

Sleep is an integral part of our daily lives and many of us do not get enough of it. Outside of mood, emotional state, level of focus, concentration, attention, etc., sleep will have an impact on other physiologic functions such as heart rate, metabolism, cell function and so on. We continue to see emerging research on how sleep is necessary for athletic performance in addition to living a happy life.

I’ve had many patients turn to running as their main stress relieving activity. So when they get injured they really depend on me to help get their life back in order. Physiologic and psychologic stressors are necessary to have optimum functioning systems. Whether it may be a resistance training program or a needy boss, we need to stress ourselves in order become better. You will not become faster if you don’t push your limits, just as you won’t be comfortable handling stressful situations if you haven’t had the opportunity to practice handling psychologic stress.

Follow this link to a fantastic Ted Talk about how viewing your stress as a helpful thing can change the physiologic impact of your stress:


So the goal would not be eliminate stress, but understand how it can affect us and how we can harness its positive effects.

Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion about how many running injuries stem from weak hips/glutes. What can runners do to strengthen these areas of the body?
Yes, weak gluteals can cause a number of different issues for runners and many other athletes. We saw some good academic research come out in the early 2000’s about this and it unfortunately takes about 10 years for that to hit the general public.

Your hip muscles steer your whole leg. If those muscles are strong and your brain can fire them in concert with other key muscle groups of the lower leg, thigh and trunk, then your leg will be stabilized. If those muscles are weak, or not well coordinated with other muscle groups, then your leg will not be stabilized and that will cause excessive motion within the leg resulting in the potential for a number of injuries.

Follow this link to see good video examples of strengthening exercises:

Hip/Trunk strengthening

In general, you want to activate your gluts in a running specific or single-leg scenario while simultaneously activating trunk muscles. Ideally, heavier strengthening periods should coordinate with lighter mileage periods as to control the total level of strain to your body.

Thanks so much for all the great information, Calvin! For more information on other running injuries or for specific questions, you can connect with Calvin here:

Website: http://www.deutschphysiotherapy.com

Email: info@deutschphysiotherapy.com

Phone Number: 414-395-1079

Stay tuned, runners! Calvin will provide a third post about running injury prevention in the next few weeks.

Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!

One thought on “What Causes Running Injuries?

  1. Pingback: Keep Running MKE | Preventing Common Running Injuries

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s