Sprained ankles. Stress fractures. Strained muscles. These are all of the obvious ailments people may think of when you mention “running injuries”.
But like most things in life, there are ailments runners suffer that you often don’t hear or think of, until you yourself are painfully suffering from them. It’s kind of like giving birth: everyone knows that labor and delivery is a painful process, but very few people know the nitty-gritty details of the experience. These types of things that are conveniently left out of movie scenes and blog post recaps, and then you find yourself in the delivery room going “WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY BODY?”
Of course, running is no exception. So, want to know some of the gross, unexpected, actual ailments that runners experience besides the obvious? Let me break the bad news to you (and all of the ways you can try and avoid these mishaps):
You’ll never truly realize the pain of chafed, well, anything, until you get in the shower post run, and the hot water hits all of the places that have been rubbed raw during your last run. The pain hits like white lightning, and you’ll likely scream and jump. It’s at that moment you realize that your sports bra dug into your shoulders over the countless miles, or thighs rubbed together one too many times, and you are now missing a few layers of skin.
And let me tell you, it hurts.
Next time, you can avoid that pain by lubing up before your run with a product designed to prevent chafing in athletes, like BodyGlide. Pro tip: you can almost never use TOO much lube. Apply liberally, and if it’s a long run and you have spots that are particular sensitive to chafing, consider carrying that lube with you for reapplication.
I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed a guy with bloody nipples at a race. His white shirt looked like he had run through a crime scene. I was slightly terrified, and then somewhat amused when I learned that men’s nipples often rub raw on their t-shirts over the course of a longer run or race. Women are often spared this atrocity thanks to their sports bras holding everything in place and avoiding the rubbing of the shirt directly on the skin.
Guys: to avoid this ailment, and perhaps avoid scaring small children, be sure to use some sort of lubrication to prevent chafing. Want even better protection? Some runners use bandaids, medical tape, or products specifically designed for this issue, like Nip Guards, placed over their nipples.
It starts as a small hot spot, a slight discomfort. Then the pain begins. Before you know it, you are limping simply to try and prevent the raw, fluid filled bubble on your foot that now impedes your every step from getting even worse. What’s worse, blisters seem to get exponentially worse with longer distances. I’ve seen blisters as small as a pencil eraser, and some larger than a half dollar.
Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING about a blister is fun.
To prevent them? You guessed it: lube those feet! Also be sure to wear shoes that fit, to avoid sliding around in your shoes and causing extra friction. Lastly, wear socks designed for running; they are more likely to wick away sweat and stay dry, as well as less likely to shift around on your foot.
This might be one of the gnarliest running ailments I have ever seen, and one I had not heard of until I became more familiar with multi day and off road events. “Trench foot” is a term given to your feet when they essentially start to fall apart during a race, typically because they have become oversaturated. Skin cracks and peels, numbness occurs, and the outer layer of the foot essentially starts to decay. The term was coined after soldiers suffered this ailment while fighting in trench warfare during World War 1.
In some instances, such as race courses that consistently go through water or mud, maintaining dry feet is nearly impossible. But do your best, change socks if at all possible (for longer distance races) and use a powder such as Anti Monkey Butt (yes, that is really what it is called) to help absorb extra moisture.
Black & lost toenails.
The constant pounding of your feet on the ground, or the pounding of your toenail against your shoe, can cause blood to pool underneath the toenail. When the blood dries, you are left with a toenail that looks black…and it tends to stay that way for months. And even worse, sometimes that pounding can actually cause the toenail to separate from the nail bed, causing it to fall off completely.
The number one way to prevent these toenail ailments is to make sure your shoes fit properly. That way, the foot will not slide around, causing the toenail to bump against the front of your shoe. Lastly, keep your nails trimmed. The shorter they are, the less likely they are to catch or hit your shoe.
You wake up the morning after a long run to an itchy rash on your legs, or maybe on your chest. What the heck is that? Well the answer is: it could be anything. Did you run through the trails or off-road? Maybe you encountered some poison ivy. Or maybe it was a particularly humid day, and you’ve given yourself a heat rash…or worse, some sort of athlete fungus.
Whatever the mystery rash may be, chances are you might be able to avoid it by showering immediately after your run. If you can’t immediately shower, don’t sit around in your sweaty, wet clothes. Change into something clean and dry.
Now, these ailments are all pretty common, but are not the only ones runners suffer. But if you’ve noticed there tends to be a recurring theme between them all: wear the appropriate clothing and shoes, and take a few preventative minutes to lube up any place that might experience friction. And hopefully, you’ll be spared from these nitty-gritty ailments that your runner friends “forgot” to tell you about when you first started running.