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Running Injuries: When to Finish the Race

Smiling woman running along river.

Whether you're a seasoned runner training for another marathon or a casual athlete who likes to jog around the neighborhood, it's important to be able to identify signs of pain and know when you need to take a break. While it is okay to push through some common running injuries, others might require rest and a visit to the doctor's office.

Sports medicine doctor Emily Levy, MD, says a runner can "finish the race" with pain that subsides with rest or if they have stable chronic pain. However, a runner should stop running if the pain changes their stride or if they have weakness, persistent numbness or tingling, or joint swelling.

Runners should seek medical care if an injury prevents them from being able to walk. Additionally, if an injury develops slowly, it is important to see a doctor if it is affecting your running mechanics or does not go away after a few day's rest.

A visit to a sports medicine doctor will include a full medical history. The doctor will discuss the nature of your injury and your training routine, and they will do an in-depth exam of your injury. Some doctors may even use a treadmill to examine your gait.

Foot and ankle injuries are the most common type of running injuries, followed by knee, hamstring and tibia injuries. "When running, you are putting the force of your entire body weight into your foot and ankle and asking it to propel you forward, leaving the foot and ankle vulnerable to acute and overuse injuries," Dr. Levy explains.

For those who are new to running, Dr. Levy recommends having a good pair of shoes and working up to your goal. "A lot of new runners will be training for races," she says. "It's important to work up to the goal mileage gradually so that your body gets used to the stress you'll be putting on it."

She recommends increasing your mileage by 10% each week, always warming up and cooling down, and replacing your sneakers every 3 to 6 months.

Related Physician

Emily Levy, MD

Emily Levy, MD
Title: Faculty
Practice: Drexel Sports Medicine
Specialty: Sports Medicine

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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