Common trail runner injuries and how to handle them
If you've taken a nasty fall or stumble while trail running, or it's taking you longer than you'd expect to recover from your latest Ultra marathon, you may have sustained one of the more common trail runner injuries, which need some care and attention to make sure you fully recover before your next run.
You will usually know if you've picked up an injury, as a fractured bone or sprained ankle is hard to ignore, but even in amongst the normal aches and pains following a race, there could be some hidden health concerns lurking that you should tackle before attempting another competitive event.
Keep running if...
You experience familiar discomfort that you know you will recover from, and that recovery stays on the usual pace. Conditions like patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), also known as Runner's Knee, are quite common after an event and can be managed just by reducing the number of miles you train.
While managing an injury, it can be beneficial to take shorter strides and to run uphill - while this might sound harder, it can be less painful, and downhill running in particular should be avoided.
Pain in your Achilles tendon or hamstring is a big worry as, if it worsens, it could lead to chronic pain and keep you off your feet for months. Don't run on these, but instead try some appropriate exercises like bridges and heel drops. Swimming can be a good option to exercise painful muscles more gently.
Shinsplints and Plantar Fasciitis
These both present as an aching pain either in the muscles of the shins, or in the arch of the foot, and should be carefully managed to speed up recovery time or they can become a lingering, nagging issue.
Correct footwear can go a long way towards preventing these conditions in the first place, as they arise due to the forces that pass through the lower legs on contact with the ground in each footfall, so consider investing in a good pair of trail running shoes that are suited to your feet.
For even greater comfort, specially designed insoles such as those made by Superfeet can support the foot and may help you to recover faster once you are back into your training routine.
Stop running if...
You experience unfamiliar or severe pain, or low-level pain that does not go away when you stop running. Taking a break is sensible as you will recover faster than if you insist on training through an injury.
Be especially careful if you think you've picked up a stress fracture. Again, swimming is an option if you want to exercise while you are healing, as it provides some resistance for your muscles without putting your bones under the excessive forces of direct impact.
Regular training exposes your body - and especially the bones and muscles in your lower legs - to forces they would not normally have to face. Recovery time between runs is essential, even during shorter daily training runs, and to allow your body to build up muscle mass from prolonged exercise.
Biomechanics is one area of expertise that is still growing, and is concerned with the whole of the body, and not just the area where the pain is felt.
For example, pain in your knees could be caused by problems in your gait from your shoulders to your hip alignment - and correcting the source of the problem can help to reduce the risk of further future pain.
Core exercises are a good natural way to strengthen your trunk, while making sure your posture is correct at every stage of your run can help to make sure you are not running in an awkward, twisted or stressed position.
Prevention is better than cure, of course, so we welcome all questions and queries to our team of experts about how to choose the correct kit to protect your body both during training, and in your next competitive run.
The right kit
Your body can only do so much in its own right, and the strongest core muscles and most evenly balanced posture can always benefit from choosing the right kit list - the icing on the cake of your training regime.
The kit you wear and carry with you gives your body the tools it needs to put your training into practice when out on a run, while also providing you with a defence against the harsh environments in which many Ultra marathons take place.
Even if you're embarking on training for the first time and want to start with a pair of sturdy and comfortable footwear, it's a worthy investment to make - and brands like Hoka and Altra offer some really excellent options whatever your experience level may be.