3 Common injuries for distance runners & how to avoid them

April 13, 2023 3 min read

3 Common injuries for distance runners & how to avoid them


Distance running, generally defined as running more than 3 kilometers (1.8 miles), can be particularly hard on the body; the longer you run, the more strain it puts on your joints, muscles, and bones. Injury is a major concern for these athletes, as being sidelined may jeopardise their training and negatively affect endurance.

Using a shoe designed specifically for distance running can reduce your risk of injury and help you maintain a consistent training schedule. Specialized features like cushioning and arch support can help soften the impact on your body, allowing you to run farther than before with less risk of damage.

Here are some of the most common running injuries, including prevention tips.


Runner's Knee (also known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome or PFPS) is the most frequently reported running-related injury and is caused by excessive stress on the knee joint structure between the kneecap and femur.

Pain associated with runner's knee may manifest as dull aching or sharp discomfort when the knee joint is flexed or extended; swelling, stiffness, and a crunching sound during movement may also be present.

Why does runner’s knee occur?

Runner's knee is often caused by overtraining or overusing the knee. With experienced athletes, a sudden increase in running intensity can create an ideal environment for the injury to occur. In addition, unusual biomechanics, high body weight, and reduced flexibility in the hamstrings or quadriceps may increase the probability of developing runner's knee.

How do you prevent runner’s knee?

While some people are predisposed to runner’s knee, it can often be prevented.

  • Strengthen the knee’s support muscles, such as the quadriceps, hip flexors, and glutes
  • Shorten stride length while running
  • Land with a slightly bent knee, which can reduce the load

You may want to adjust your running plan if you suffer from PFPS, including resting more often and avoiding running downhill. Cross-training activities like cycling may be beneficial.


Stress fractures, tiny cracks in bone, are a major issue for runners. The foot and ankle are the most common sites of these fractures, but the tibia (shin bone) and fibula of the leg can be affected as well. Symptoms can include pain to the touch and discomfort in the form of an aching or burning sensation.

Why do stress fractures occur?

Stress fractures may develop when a bone is incapable of bearing the impact of activity. Over a few months, the bone can be strengthened and conditioned to increased stress; however, rapidly elevating the intensity of physical activity can lead to stress fractures. Additionally, incorrect footwear or terrain transition could also cause these fractures. If you think you have a stress fracture, a break from exercise is recommended.

How do you prevent stress fractures?

Stress fractures are often preventable if an athlete follows certain guidelines.

  • Increase intensity and mileage gradually
  • Wear appropriate and well-fitting footwear
  • Maintain proper nutrition, including taking a daily calcium or vitamin D supplement for bone strength

Continuing to run could aggravate the injury, potentially compromising your future performance.


The Achilles tendon joins the calf to the heel and plays a critical role in running, thus rendering it prone to injury. There are numerous tendon ailments, yet Achilles tendonitis is one of the most common among runners. This is an inflammation of the tendon caused by ongoing, intensive physical activity that leads to damage of the tendon. Symptoms often occur progressively and can include soreness, swelling, and rigidity in the lower calf or back of the heel.

Why does Achilles tendonitis occur?

The Achilles tendon is prone to injury when under tension from extended or uphill running, due to weak calf muscles, ankle instability, or lack of adequate footwear and support. An abrupt increase of activity can also add to the likelihood of Achilles tendon injury.

How do you prevent Achilles tendonitis?

Injury to the Achilles tendon is often preventable by:

  • Easing into a new routine. If you are training for a race, gradually increase miles and don’t overdo it.
  • Participating in cross training. Since running is a high-impact activity, try swimming or cycling on your rest days.
  • Stretching your leg muscles. Before exercising, be sure to properly stretch the calf, ankle, and Achilles tendon.

While you may be able to run with Achilles tendonitis, it’s important to stop and take a few days off if it becomes painful.

 (Note: Consult a physician when running injuries occur to avoid serious, long-term damage.)

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