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    Crash Test Runner

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    Through my experience of getting to where I am, I’ve had to learn about running through injury. I feel like I’ve had first hand experience with most injuries that plague a lot of runners. As I’ve been off of running the last week because of a broken toe, I figured it was the best time to go over my injuries and subsequent solutions. Working at a few sports stores selling shoes in the past, a lot of these questions have come up in conversation.

    I’m no doctor, but this is what I’ve experienced and my remedies for all of the road blocks. I have a joy of running that inspires me in finding solutions and implementing them. Up until now, I’m glad that I’ve figured out all the kinks and have been running pain-free for almost 3 years. On the speed side of things: I’ve gone from running a 6min/km to a 3:45/km and couldn’t have done it without learning from my constant injuries.

    Shin splints to stress fractures:

    This is a horrible injury. It’s a culmination of bad gait and overuse. For me, this was my most crippling running injury. I have spent way too much time off the road and just generally dealing with pain. It starts as a shin splint and accelerates to a bone chip, which eventually leads to a stress fracture. It feels like a nail is lightly being tapped into your shin, with every step. I’ve had two experiences with the latter. One fracture during a marathon, and one border-line fracture after a marathon.

    Solution: This doesn’t need to get to this point. All of the signs present themselves for this injury. It can be brought on by overuse and bad gait/footwear. If it’s overuse, check your training schedule. If you’ve added a lot of mileage, cut back down. If it’s bad gait/footwear, I recommend a place like Solefit in Ottawa. They’ll watch you run on a treadmill and get your gait/footwear in check. My problems stemmed from my legs being out in front of me upon impact and not underneath me.

    Torn Soleus:

    Without a doubt, my most painful injury yet. Based on bad gait, as mentioned above. Instead of affecting my bones, this injury actually tore the muscle within my shin. As gross as it is, I could feel it flapping while training, and stubbornly continued to run on it. Once I was warmed up, the pain wasn’t as bad. It took months of no running to heal this.

    Solution: This injury presents the signs. Stop running! Get you’re gait and footwear checked by a professional.

    Plantar Fasciitis:

    This has happened to me a few times throughout the years. The fascia runs along the arch of the foot. This feels as if it’s really tight, especially in the morning and is very painful to run on. Though in my opinion, this one is an easier fix.

    Solution: I view Plantar Fasciitis like an overworked muscle. I compare it to those weeks your legs or upper shoulders are really tight. My solution is rolling a golf ball or a tennis ball beneath your foot. You can almost feel it loosening as you do it. I’m consistent when its bothering me. This injury was common for me while learning barefoot running. Now that my feet are stronger from barefoot/minimalist running my fascia is usually in great shape.

    Groin Injury

    The groin is a tough one. I feel as if it’s an area we don’t strengthen as much as we should. Sometimes my groin gets bad enough that after sitting for  awhile, when I stand my leg gives out. In it’s worst state, it also bothers me on most runs.

    Solution: Take it easy on speed workouts. They’re hard on the body and will only make it worse. Go see a massage therapist who can identify which particular muscles are not helping the problem. Your groin issue may stem from a couple of muscles sticking together and not gliding, which has been an issue for me. Strengthen up your groin and stretch often. I like the butterfly stretch while sitting.

    Pulled Calf Muscles:

    A lot of runners experience calf issues when they leave the clunky shoes behind and transition to minimalist or barefoot footwear. It’s a lot harder on your calves as your gait changes and they end up taking more of the job.

    Solution: Drink more water (until your urine looks like weak lemonade). This will ensure you’re well hydrated and not going to let it get pulled easily. Stretch! There are two good wall stretches. One is the traditional wall stretch, when the leg you’re stretching is back behind your body. The second is with both legs close to the wall and your heel raised, it should almost feel like you’re dropping your heel off of the edge of a step.

    Knee Pain: 

    Depending where the knee pain is… A lot of IT band pain starts from the hips. If I’ve had this issue in the past, I go for a massage and stretch the hips out or roll the hips out on a foam roller. Usually I get IT pain from running on sloped terrain and not flat ground. I’ve also had significant knee pain for about a year; that was due to terrible heel striking.

    Solution: Depending where the pain is, my first go-to is changing footwear. My second is making sure I’m loose and stretched. I feel like most of my knee pain experience has been from a dead shoe, wrong shoe, or tight muscles pulling on my knee joints. Other than the aformentioned, it could be foot type. I’d recommend a orthopedic specialist.

    Broken Toes: In my current state, I would say it’s not nearly the worst injury I’ve had but it is annoying. Sometimes technical trails can be really tough on your feet. I suggest good trail shoes and not barefoot shoes for these kind of trails.

    Solution: The first 24 hours makes the biggest difference with this injury. Elevate and ice. The next day put cotton between the toes and tape them. This will help stabilize the toe moving forward. The key is rest until it’s back to normal (something I’m having a hard time with).

    I’m not sure if all of these tips will help you. This has been my experience. Throughout all of these issues I have learned quite a bit about running, so I guess I’m thankful in a way. In a lot of cases, it’s forcing yourself to hang up the shoes for a while and recover. For a lot of us this can be very difficult. Sometimes it’s the only way to get better; I’m still teaching myself this.

    If I had to choose my number one injury solution in all of my running, it would be the decision to go and get my gait looked at by professionals. Training for the 2010 Ottawa Marathon, I started getting injured and made the choice to go. There comes a point where you get fed up of injury. Seeing a foot specialist taught me what I was consistently doing wrong with my gait and opened my world to minimalist/barefoot running. There are other things that have helped, but this was definitely a nice addition.

    Here’s to you and running injury free!

    D

    4 COMMENTS

    1. Glad to see the running shoes hanging up until the toe is more comfortable(.Great picture) You have had a fantastic year with your running and glad to hear you are listening to your body now….R and R for awhile you deserve it….

    2. Some great tips Dusty; took you advise with the rolling pin tip on the tight muscles and rest and going back to my run class tonight. Keep up the great articles

    3. Hi,

      I used to suffer from a variety of injuries, shin splints, lower back pain, and sore feet until switching to running in my bare feet about 4 years ago. Now I run 80-100 miles a week with energy to spare and zero injuries. Some say it’s not for everyone, but speaking for myself the transformation has been a miracle. I’m 57 and have rediscovered the joy of running. When I do wear a shoe it’s always the Invisible Shoe. It’s biomechanically identical to being bare foot, but still offers some protection. I use them for trail running. Best shoe EVER.

    4. @Bill Thanks for that. I completely agree, I was at the point of switching sports, it’s changed my entire perspective. You’re an inspiration, I really hope to run at 57! That’s truly amazing.

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