As owner of The Running Company Bondi Beach, Chris “Chicken” Chapman knows a thing or two about running. He’s been fitting out the feet of Bondi’s top athletes and weekend warriors for years now and has completed an impressive eight marathons in his time, as well as recently competing in his very first Ironman.
For years now, Bondi’s trainers and runners have been turning to Chris to cure their body woes – from blistered toes, to shin splints and painful knees, he’s seen it all!
So with City2Surf training programs kicking off all over Sydney, Chris seemed the perfect man to check in with about what kind of injuries and niggles newbie runners might face and importantly, how to overcome them so we can all still finish the world’s biggest fun run in style (and comfort).
Here are the three most common injuries Chris sees rookie runners hobble into his four stores with (yep, he’s branched out from Bondi and is now the running guru for Potts Point, Geelong and Launceston too!).
Oh and did we mention, Chris has actually been through all three of these injuries many times himself, particularly throughout the beginning of his running career, so he literally feels your pain!
Rookie Injury #1: ITB Syndrome
Illiotibial Band Syndrome is a very common running injury, which most runners will experience at least once in their sporting lifetime. This one occurs when the layer of connective tissue running from the outside of your hip to the outer side of your knee repeatedly rubs over the bump of the thigh bone near the knee, causing irritation.
ITB Syndrome commonly shows up after 2-3kms and manifests on the outside of the knee with an extremely sharp pain, which can literally stop you from running altogether.
I’ve personally experienced this to the point where it stopped me from running for some time, so get on to it early because the quicker you start treating it, the faster you’ll be able to get moving again!
Here’s what to do about it:
1. Book in to see your physio… NOW!
See a good physio/massage therapist who will not only work on releasing the problem area through massage/dry needling but also work on the ITB where it connects further up and down the chain to hips/shoulders and feet/ankles. Sometimes all you need is a little release and you’re back on track.
2. Have your shoes checked
If your shoes are either over supporting or under supporting your stride, this will throw everything else further up the chain out… and the pain will set in!
3. Get rolling!
A foam roller will work wonders in helping to stretch out the fascia and surrounding tissue, providing release and relief to a tight ITB. This technique can hurt a little but it’s one of those “good” hurts. You’ll need to roll the foamie down the outside of your leg and put a fair amount of your own body weight on the roller to really get results… if your ITB is truly the issue, you’ll know about it using this method, as the combination of foam roller + tight ITB = ouch! This one gets easier with practice but the first few times you may feel pretty uncoordinated (I sire did!).
Rookie Injury #2: Shin Splints
Shin splints is a common term for, “it could be one of 10 different problems but the area around your shins sure is tight and sore!”
The pain could be stemming from calf tightness, old shoes that are no longer doing the right thing by your feet, increasing the amount of running you’re doing too soon (i.e. going from zero to hero!) and any other number of issues that cause your shins to say, “ouch”.
Here’s what to do about it:
1. Get rolling… again!
A foam roller is great for releasing your calf muscles yourself and the best rollers on the market are ‘Trigger Point GRID’ rollers because a) they are so durable they don’t compress like cheaper rollers and b) they have pressure point ‘grids’ arranged in two distinct patterns, which simulate either a massage therapist’s palm, or fingers to really get into niggle spots.
2. Check your shoes... often the quickest way to get rid of shin splints!
If you’ve not had your shoes properly assessed in a running specialty store and had your running style looked at (usually filmed and watched back frame-by-frame) while both running barefoot and in a variety of shoes styles, there’s a good chance your current shoes are not helping the situation one bit! Shin splints can be one of the most simple injuries to treat, as once you get someone in the right shoe, it often makes a world of difference.
3. Don’t self-massage – find a pro to help!
Massaging your own shins directly can sometimes make the situation a LOT worse, so see a good physio/massage therapist who will not only work on releasing the problem area through dry needling or pressure point application but will also look both further up and down the chain to hips/shoulders and feet/ankles. Any good running specialty store (or your personal trainer) will have a key list of sports medical practitioners who specialise in helping keep their runners injury free.
Rookie Injury #3: Blisters
This seems like a minor injury and is often laughed off when you complain to your mates, but the good ol’ blister is one of the most common issues runners face and they sure can be one of the most painful and ongoing running injuries out there! The good news is, they are usually one of the easiest to fix as well… ya just gotta know how.
Here’s what to do about it:
1. Ditch the cotton!
Those cheap cotton socks you picked up in the bargain bin at your local sports store seemed like a good idea at the time. Three pairs for $10? Happy days! And buying them in a sports store means that they’re perfect for running, right?
Cotton tends to hang on to sweat and moisture, meaning when it dries, cotton becomes really hard and brittle. So if there’s even a hint of rubbing going on in your shoes, the hard cotton can turn to sandpaper a few kms into your run.
Choose socks made from Merino wool (Icebreaker brand socks are great), or coolmax/drifit type socks will help to wick the sweat and moisture away from your feet, keeping you cool and dry, while minimising any rubbing.
A good sock will be very well fitted and anatomical (left and right shaped), as your feet are different shapes and have an arch band to stop the sock from slipping around.
Sure, they’re more expensive (Icebreaker $27.95) but will outlast 2 lots of the 3 pairs for $10 and you’ll love wearing them.
As a little example… I just did the Cairns Ironman in a pair of Icebreakers, not one blister after 6+ hours on the bike and 4 hours running. In contrast, a physio friend of mine (who shall remain anonymous!) threw her socks away during the run, as they were annoying her. She showed me her blisters the next day – needless to say it wasn’t pretty!
2. Check your shoes
If your shoes aren’t fitted properly then socks can’t fix that and you’ll always be getting blisters no matter how much padding, or how many expensive socks you go through! Again, a running specialty store will do a full digital gait analysis assessment and slow the footage down frame-by-frame to get you sorted.
3. Still chafing and blistering? Get lubed!
Yep, there are lubricants for runners too! Something like BodyGlide is designed to prevent blisters and/or chafing in vulnerable areas like your feet, armpits, etc. It comes in a stick and is applied kinda like a deodorant – roll on anywhere that typically blisters (on your feet and on your socks too), or chafes (an armpit saviour!). Broke? Pick up a tub of good ol’ Vaseline instead but apply sparingly, you don’t want to be slipping out of your shoes!
The Quick-Prep List: Fix It Before It Even Occurs!
We all want a quick fix to get running again, but why not reduce your chances of injury before you even begin? Here are our top tips to get sorted before you get started with your new running program.
- Get a professional shoe fitting via digital gait analysis – the main way to help avoid costly physio bills. Don’t be fooled into buying a cheap pair of shoes on sale or over the internet – unless you’re really lucky (or really young), you’ll end up spending more money and being in more pain in the long run.
- Trigger Point GRID rollers are the best rollers your money can buy, it’s a good hurt and they fix all number of ills, so get involved!
- Good running socks are key. They’ll wick the sweat and moisture away, keep you cool and dry and minimise the risk of blisters.