When you run long distance, you take about 1,500 steps a mile. That's close to 40,000 in a single marathon. Your leg joints therefore have to dissipate a formidable amount of impact stress in order to keep functioning properly. As good a job as your hip, knee and ankle joints usually do, occasional pain in the muscles, tendons and bones in these areas is almost inevitable.
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The hip is a ball-and-socket joint with a large number of muscle, tendon and fascia attachments. Pain in the hip area in runners most often results from impingement of the sciatic nerve as it passes through the muscles in the butt, a condition called piriformis syndrome. Inflammation of the iliotibial band, which connects the top of the hip to the knee, is another common source of hip pain in runners. Bursitis, fracture of the femoral head, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction are other, less common causes of soreness in this area.
The knee is the most frequently injured joint in the body in runners. While many things can go wrong -- among them torn cartilage, strained ligaments, iliotibial band syndrome and complications of osteoarthritis -- the most common malady is patellofemoral pain syndrome, better known as "runner's knee." This results from the kneecap not tracking properly as it slides along the bone during the stride cycle, causing disruptions to adjoining structures. Strengthening the quadriceps may provide relief if rest alone is insufficient.
According to Dr. Cathy Fieseler, the most common complaint involving the ankle in distance runners is tendinitis. Inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon, peroneal tendons or Achilles tendon regularly hobble runners, while ankle sprains, tenosynovitis and stress fractures are less common problems. Treatment of tendinitis usually includes a rest period, icing, anti-inflammatory medications and, when necessary, shoe inserts such as custom orthotics to address underlying biomechanical aberrations. You should avoid running on hilly or uneven terrain whenever you experience ankle pain.
Metatarsalgia is pain in the metatarsophalangeal joints, where the metatarsal bones meet the proximal bones of the toes. These joints are the lower-body analogs of the knuckles of the hands. The most common cause of soreness and injury to this area is, according to Wellington Chiropractic, faulty weight distribution on landing as a consequence of the intrinsic muscles of the toes failing to do their job. This pain, which centers on the underside of the foot and comes on gradually, can usually be eliminated with icing and new shoes.