Summer races take place throughout the QC area all season long. They bring out both regular and occasional runners and walkers.
“It’s inevitable that I see patients with foot injuries this time of year,” says Quad City foot and ankle surgeon, Beau Shay, ORA Orthopedics.
“I enjoy recreational running, too. But while we all want to get out there, if you aren’t conditioned for longer distances, you can push beyond soreness and right into an overuse injury.”
Dr. Shay says walkers, and especially runners, can suffer from the following injuries, often caused by pushing too hard.
1. Plantar Fasciitis
There are several different injuries that can affect the foot, including plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis involves the thick band of tissue that supports your arch. With repeated loading of this tissue, it can become inflamed or even break down.
Walkers and runners may feel a stab of pain under the heel, especially in the morning.
To combat this problem, it is advisable to ease into longer distances and strengthen your foot.
Once someone has pain in the plantar fascia, Dr. Shay advises to try “stretching of the plantar fascia and deep massage of the arch, using a golf ball to increase the blood flow to aid in healing.”
He also says using orthotic inserts in your shoes, once you have pain in your arch, can help in some cases.
2. Achilles Tendon
Achilles tendon problems can also plague outdoor cardio enthusiasts.
The Achilles tendon is the thick tendon right above your heel and it’s the most common cause of pain in the back of the heel.
“The tendon is strong, but there’s not a lot of blood flow,” says Dr. Shay. “It can get swollen and acutely inflamed, or with some runners, it can get microscopic tears and thicken over time.
“Once pain has developed it’s important to stretch it, and decrease impact on the tendon until pain decreases. The most important step is to re-strengthen the calf muscles before returning to your previous level of running.”
3. Shin Splints
Shin pain is another common injury affecting runners and walkers. Usually the pain occurs along the inner edge of the shinbone, or tibia.
“This pain also tends to intensify when we put extra demands on our legs,” says Dr. Shay.
“The muscles, tendons, and then the bone become inflamed, and without rest or treatment, the condition can worsen.”
Dr. Shay advises the best course of treatment is to ice the shins to control the immediate pain, and then rest or cross-train with lower-impact exercises.
Be sure to see a doctor if your pain is located in the front of the tibia; the pain occurs at rest or night; or worsens after 1-2 weeks of modified activity.
“Untreated shin splints can result in stress fractures, so it’s really important to listen to your body regarding these symptoms,” he adds.
4. “Runners Knee”
“Runner’s knee is not a specific injury,” explains Dr. Shay, “but instead covers a whole host of different knee pain with different causes.”
Typically, runners experience pain under the kneecap, which is also known as patellofemoral syndrome.
Since the kneecap sits like a train on a track and slides along a groove in the femur, pain occurs when there is a tracking problem, triggering inflammation, and injury to the knee cartilage.
“The best way to prevent knee pain is to strengthen the muscles that control the position of the femur. These are the glutes and the muscles around the hip,” advises Dr. Shay.
He says if you are feeling pain on the outside of your knee, it may actually be related to the IT band, which is a tendon that runs along the outside of your thigh and attaches just below the knee.
Again, strengthening the hip and practicing good running and walking techniques can help.
You can also use a long foam roller to stimulate blood flow, reduce inflammation and gently stretch the area. Lie lie on your side with your thigh at a 90 degree angle on top of the roller and roll gently back and forth.
When to See a Doctor?
Dr. Shay says that while soreness is inevitable, it’s time to call a physician when:
1. Pain is present even during non-athletic activity.
2. Pain worsens at night.
3. Pain involves high-risk areas such as your groin, the front of the lower leg, or the foot.
4. Pain does not resolve with 1-2 weeks of modified activity.