Excessive progression in weekly running distance and risk of running-related injuries: an association which varies according to type of injury

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Oct;44(10):739-47. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.5164. Epub 2014 Aug 25.


Study design: An explorative, 1-year prospective cohort study. Objective To examine whether an association between a sudden change in weekly running distance and running-related injury varies according to injury type.

Background: It is widely accepted that a sudden increase in running distance is strongly related to injury in runners. But the scientific knowledge supporting this assumption is limited.

Methods: A volunteer sample of 874 healthy novice runners who started a self-structured running regimen were provided a global-positioning-system watch. After each running session during the study period, participants were categorized into 1 of the following exposure groups, based on the progression of their weekly running distance: less than 10% or regression, 10% to 30%, or more than 30%. The primary outcome was running-related injury.

Results: A total of 202 runners sustained a running-related injury. Using Cox regression analysis, no statistically significant differences in injury rates were found across the 3 exposure groups. An increased rate of distance-related injuries (patellofemoral pain, iliotibial band syndrome, medial tibial stress syndrome, gluteus medius injury, greater trochanteric bursitis, injury to the tensor fascia latae, and patellar tendinopathy) existed in those who progressed their weekly running distance by more than 30% compared with those who progressed less than 10% (hazard ratio = 1.59; 95% confidence interval: 0.96, 2.66; P = .07).

Conclusion: Novice runners who progressed their running distance by more than 30% over a 2-week period seem to be more vulnerable to distance-related injuries than runners who increase their running distance by less than 10%. Owing to the exploratory nature of the present study, randomized controlled trials are needed to verify these results, and more experimental studies are needed to validate the assumptions. Still, novice runners may be well advised to progress their weekly distances by less than 30% per week over a 2-week period.

Keywords: etiology; novice; prospective.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Running / injuries*