Pain when running – when to get checked

Mr Charles Willis-Owen is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at BMI The Harbour Hospital and keen sportsman. Here he discusses when to see a specialist if you suffer pain when running.

As a runner, it’s important to know when you need medical attention to prevent an injury getting worse. Running is a popular form of exercise, but it can lead to a range of injuries – from joint pain to stress fractures and strains. If you have an injury brought on by running, it’s important to know when you ought to see a specialist. Here, you can read about the different types of running-related injuries and the treatment they require.

Foot pain

If you suffer from pain in your heel or the front of your foot, it can ruin your enjoyment of running. This type of pain can signify a stress fracture or a condition called plantar fasciitis, which is damage to the tough band that makes up the sole of your foot. Both conditions will get worse with continued running, so it’s best to get any significant foot pain checked out sooner rather than later. Plantar fasciitis and stress fractures can usually be fixed without the need for injections or surgery.

Shin pain


Shin pain is a common complaint for runners – and for those who do other sports that involve repeatedly placing a lot of weight on their legs, such as basketball and tennis. There are three common causes of shin pain. The first is a stress fracture, which is where a small break occurs in the bone due to repetitive damage. 

If you have a stress fracture you will need to take time off from running in order to let the fracture heal. If you don’t catch it early, you may even need surgery or to spend time on crutches.

Another common cause of shin pain is medial tibial periostitis – also called medial tibial stress syndrome. This type of injury is often associated with flat feet or collapsed arches. The good news is that it can be dealt with fairly easily through training advice, physiotherapy and a correction of the underlying problems. It’s best to treat this as early as possible to prevent future damage.

The third problem is called compartment syndrome, which can be more challenging to diagnose. This is caused by swelling in your leg muscles which then cuts off the blood supply in your leg leading to pressure. Diagnosis is usually done through special techniques to assess the pressure and you may require surgery.

Knee pain

Tying shoes

Knee pain is a common occurrence among runners – and there can be many causes. Overuse can result in injuries like patellar tendonitis and iliotibial band, while bad running habits can cause problems such as Hoffa’s syndrome, or general wear and tear over the years. 

There are numerous beneficial exercises that alleviate knee pain. However, if you continue to have problems with your knees after four weeks, it’s best to see a specialist.

Pain during or after running

If you’re experiencing pain while running and the pain continues for a number of hours afterwards, you may have some ongoing damage. If you have pain at night which is disturbing your sleep, this is particularly concerning as it may be caused by a stress fracture or arthritis. You should consider seeing a specialist if the pain persists after resting for a week or two.

If you’re concerned about a recent injury, seeing a specialist will help to ensure you don’t make the injury worse. Although the link between running and osteoarthritis is unclear, we do know that running can lead to a wide range of injuries, for which treatment is often necessary.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 or
make an online enquiry.

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