Sports physician Jack Taunton, M.D., and exercise scientist Michael Ryan, both recreational runners from the University of British Columbia, were studying sports injuries four years ago when they recognized a lack of data linking specific traits, weight, gender, foot type — to running injuries. So they decided to conduct research that was later published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. "We found that certain injuries were statistically more significant among particular people," Ryan says. "Women are more likely to experience one kind of knee pain — patellofemoral pain syndrome — while men are more likely to experience another — patellar tendonitis."
Ryan and Taunton's findings focus on six injuries and the runners they most commonly afflict. Whether you're in a high-risk group or not, simple training adjustments can keep you safe. These precautionary measures could save you from the dreaded routine of rest and rehab.
Achilles TendinitisWhat It Is Tenderness in your lower calf near your heel that usually strikes when you push off your toes
You're at Risk Men with a BMI of 25 or higher (a man who is 5'10" and weighs 175 pounds, for example) who run a nine-minute-per-mile pace or faster
Why The Achilles absorbs several times your body weight with each stride. A faster pace and additional body weight put even more stress on this tendon.
Prevent It Strengthen your calf muscles (with your toes on a step, lower and raise your heels). Stretch your calves (keep your heel on the ground, lift your toes back toward your shin).
Others at Risk People who regularly run hills (the Achilles has to stretch more on inclines) and who have increased their mileage more than 10 percent per week (sudden increases in mileage strain the tendon)
Medial Tibial Stress SyndromeWhat It Is Pain and soreness along the inside front of the lower leg, commonly called shinsplints
You're at Risk Runners whose feet roll inward excessively (overpronate)
Why The posterior tibial tendon, the connective tissue that gets sore with shinsplints, runs into the arch of the foot. If your feet roll inward, this tendon has to work extra hard to counteract that motion.
Prevent It Wear motion-control shoes. Strengthen your calves (hold dumbbells while doing toe raises). If you've had daily shin pain for longer than a month, see a doctor for a bone scan to rule out a stress fracture.
Others at Risk Beginning runners; people who train on slanted surfaces; women who wear high heels
Patellar TendinitisWhat It Is Pain in the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shinbone
You're at Risk Men with a BMI of 25 or higher or who have a history of playing basketball and have suddenly increased their weekly mileage
Why The patellar tendon helps your leg extend during running or jumping, but that repeated motion can create small tears in the tendon. After years of activity and then a sudden increase in mileage, your body may struggle to repair those tears. Extra body weight doesn't help.
Prevent It Keep your weight in check. Do squats to strengthen the patellar tendon and stretch your quads and hamstrings. Avoid increasing mileage by more than 10 percent per week.
Others at Risk Runners with a history of tendon injuries; overpronators