runners marathon

Education

A Healthy Pace: Running Tips to Avoid Knee, Foot and Ankle Injuries – and Other Mishaps

If you’ve been training for months for your first marathon or half marathon, you know the challenges ahead, primarily staying well-hydrated, avoiding muscle strains, staying injury-free and keeping mentally sharp.

The upcoming 2023 Life Time Miami Marathon & Half on Jan. 29 will put thousands of runners to the test. Baptist Health South Florida is a sponsor and the official medical provider for the event, providing assistance at the various first-aid and medical stations along the full route.


Cary B. Chapman, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care.

The most common injuries among runners involve the knees, feet or ankles, explains Cary B. Chapman, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care. Dr. Chapman specializes in minimally invasive surgical treatments for chronic and acute foot and ankle injuries, ankle arthritis, ankle replacements, bunions, and hammer toe deformities.

“A vast majority of running injuries involve the legs, with the knee being the most injured area,” explains Dr. Chapman. “Up to 50 percent of all running injuries involve the knee, including patella-femoral syndrome (pain in the front of the knee) and Ilio-tibial band syndrome (pain on the outer part of the knee).”

What about marathoners? “As an orthopedic foot & ankle specialist, the most common injuries I see related to marathon running are plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures of the foot,” he adds.

While physical injuries are vital to avoid with proper training, the most important “potential injury” to be aware of during a long-distance event, such as the marathon or half-marathon is “heat related illness,” said Dr. Chapman. “Overexposure to heat can lead to muscle cramping and weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, as well as confusion and disorientation,” he emphasizes. “Risks from heat-related illness can be reduced with an appropriate hydration with electrolytes (sports drink).

The full marathon covers 26.2 miles, with frequent stations set up along the route offering water or sports drinks that replace electrolytes (including potassium, calcium, sodium) that are lost when you sweat.

Even the best trained runners can experience pain during a long-distance event.

“A vast majority of marathon runners experience pain during the event, especially in the thighs and calves, regardless of their training methods,” said Dr. Chapman. “The best advice for those experiencing pain during a marathon is to reduce your pace.”

Nonetheless, months of proper training – involving a progressive program of stretching, warm-ups and cool-downs, proper pacing, determining hydration needs and avoiding strains in muscles and joint – should precede a long-distance event to avoid pain and other mishaps. What’s the primary piece of advice that Dr. Chapman give to marathoners regarding injury prevention before the big event on Jan. 29?  

The best way to prevent injury during a marathon occurs in the months leading up to the marathon,” he said. “That includes proper footwear and running form, appropriate running mileage management and time for recovery during training, as well as warming up and cooling down before and after the event.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.