Running is great activity. It fills a lot of buckets in our lives ranging from stress relief to weight management to social interactions. Unfortunately, many runners experience pain.  A very common question I get is, what pain is good, what pain is bad, and when should I seek medical care?

The following pain is OK to work through with some simple home remedies:

  1. Mild pain that resolves within 24 – 48  hours after running
  2. Mild pain before activity relieved by warming up and is gone within 24 -48 hours after running
  3. Mild pain present during running but does NOT cause the runner to alter their form and is gone within 24-48 hours after running

For these pains, I recommend continue running but listen to your body. Try ice and light compression. In addition, evaluate your training and shoe wear. Did you abruptly increase intervals or hill work?  Are your shoes old or not appropriate for the season? It is recommended to change shoes every 300-400 miles and switch to trail shoes during snowy months to prevent running injuries in winter. Are you slapping your foot when you run or over striding? Both of these common running form traits can lead to increased impact forces on your lower body muscles and joints. Consider increasing step rate, or cadence, 5-10%.  If these pains continue, consider increasing cross training, reduce running frequency, and adding a little extra rest.

The following pain I recommend seeking advice from a sports medicine specialist:

  1. Home remedies stop working such as ice, compression, cross training, addressing your running form, your training plan, your shoes, and rest
  2. Pain does not reduce after 48 hours of resting
  3. Pain causes you to alter your daily activities
  4. Pain worsens the more you walk and you need to limp
  5. Pain wakes you up at night