Every runner has been asked about the health of their knees at least once in their running career. As professional marathoner of Flagstaff, Arizona Stephanie Bruce pointed out on Twitter on Sunday, it’s the go-to injury concern for new and non-runners alike. While knee injuries happen, there’s a host of other running problems that can come someone’s way. Here’s a list of some of the most painful but lesser-known injuries and suggestions for how to heal them.
TSA agent: “are you a marathon runner? Yes I am. How are your knees?” They are great actually, but why don’t people ever ask about my Achilles or my glute med or hamstring because they are sore and tight.
— Stephanie Bruce (@Steph_Rothstein) November 17, 2019
The cuboid bone is a small wedge-shaped bone on the outside of the foot. It supports the outside of the feet and is involved in all foot movements. When this bone acts up, walking can become extremely painful, let alone running. But the good news with the cuboid is that its bark is usually worse than its bite.
Cuboid injuries flare up when the bone drops down and becomes restricted. According to Brittany Moran, a Toronto-based chiropractor, this injury can feel like you’ve stepped on something, which potentially causes a sharp pain. “The foot absorbs a lot of shock when we run, up to two and a half times a runner’s body weight,” says Moran. “On impact, there are 26 bones in a foot that splay to take that shock, but if something isn’t moving properly, the foot isn’t able to splay and that can cause pain.” Moran says that a runner’s cuboid can flare up for several reasons: an ankle sprain, poor biomechanics, stepping on something, poor movement through the ankle or dysfunctional loading patterns through the whole body.
The tensor fascia latae (TFL) muscle is one of the hip flexor muscles responsible for pulling your thigh up (flexing the hip), abducting the thigh (moving the leg out to the side), medially rotating the thigh (turning the leg in) and stabilizing the hip and pelvis. When your TFL is tight, running and even walking can become extremely painful, but thankfully if you catch it early enough, some light massage and mobility should help alleviate symptoms.
It’s a difficult muscle to reach, but lying on top of a lacrosse ball is a great way to access the hot spot–if this stretch feels painful at first, back off and be patient with the muscle as it releases.
Posterior Tibial Tendonitis
This issue can sometimes present as shin splints, but really it’s a slightly different injury. This tendon sits behind the ankle and connects to the calf muscle to the shin bone. Its main function is the stabilize the ankle and support the arch of the foot.
If you’re feeling particularly tender in your feet, shins and calves, start by rolling out your feet with a golf ball or self-massaging. If the problem lies in your post-tib, this is a good way to stretch the area. Calf raises are also a great way to strengthen the area.
Bursitis of the knee is most common in runners. The bursa (which also exists in other parts of the body) is a small fluid-filled sac. It’s supposed to reduce pressure between bones and tendons. This injury tends to come from overuse, and runners should consider taking a break if they’re feeling consistent knee pain.
The pain will feel like it’s above the knee, despite being coming from within the knee.
One of the best ways to stretch the bursa in a runner’s knee is to do the heel slide. Lie on your back with one leg flat and one bent. Slowly slide the bent leg towards your glutes–you should feel a stretch in the knee.