What Are The Most Common Marathon Injuries?

In a marathon, injuries can affect both muscles and other soft tissues. So, today we'll tell you about some of the most common marathon injuries.
What Are The Most Common Marathon Injuries?

Last update: 15 March, 2021

Considering everything involved in running a marathon, it takes fingers on both hands to count the most common of potential injuries. Let’s keep in mind that we’re talking about running 26 miles at once, and that’s not counting all the effort and days of training beforehand.

Below, we’re going to list the most common injuries when a person subjects his body to such a sacrifice. It’s an effort that the human body is more than capable of withstanding, but that can give rise to problems precisely because of what we’ve said. It’s not only about running the marathon but also all the previous training.

Typical muscle injuries in a marathon

As there are many injuries that frequently occur, let’s start by grouping the first category. In this context, by muscle injuries we mean:

  • Overloads: when a muscle becomes too fatigued and isn’t able to cope with the effort we ask of it, overloads can appear. This discomfort will force us to stop the effort, treat the injury, and rest.
  • Contractures: when a muscle is pushed to its limit, the contraction-relaxation cycle can be altered. When a muscle remains contracted involuntarily and pathologically, we call it a contracture. We’ll have to solve the problem and receive treatment to prevent its reappearance.
  • Stiffness: even if we’re well-prepared, micro-tears that cause stiffness can always appear in long-distance races. It should be taken into account that, during a marathon, we take tens of thousands of steps.
  • Muscle ruptures: the most severe degree after stiffness is a rupture. In this case, the muscle gives way and, instead of micro-tears, larger bundles of fibers break. Thus, there’s a discontinuity in a greater or lesser part of the muscle and we’ll have notable pain.

Other common injuries in a marathon

Beyond the fact that muscular ailments are usually the ones that appear most often, there are also others that marathon runners can experience. Here are some of them:


Tendonitis, another injury caused by overuse, is a very common soft-tissue pathology among long-distance runners. The tendon is the structure that attaches the muscle to the bone. Therefore, whenever there’s a muscle contraction, the tendon is pulled.

As mentioned above, this process is repeated more than 40,000 times during a marathon, which can lead to this type of injury. In short, tendinitis consists of the rupture of small fibrous bundles of the tendon in question.

Marathon injuries: periostitis

Like any pathology ending in -itis, it’s an inflammation. In this case, of the periosteum, the tissue that covers the bones. A publication in the Spanish Journal of Podiatry explains that the periosteum of the tibia is especially sensitive when subjected to heavy workloads because whenever there’s an impact against the ground, it suffers microtrauma.

Repeated thousands and thousands of times, this can end up being harmful. This is why periostitis is one of the most common marathon injuries.

Plantar fasciitis

It’s very common for the fascia of the sole of the foot to suffer from plantar fasciitis. The fascia is a tissue that runs from the heel to the base of the toes and contributes to stability and force distribution during walking.

Again, if we demand its function beyond its capacity, it can be damaged. In this case, in addition, with any step we take, we’ll notice pinching in the sole of the foot, so it’s really limiting, as stated in an article in the Revista de Ciencias Médicas Pinar del Río (Pinar del Río Medical Sciences Journal).

Sprains, another common marathon injury

Ligaments are another soft tissue susceptible to injury when we subject them to heavy workloads. In this case, their function is to give stability to the joints and prevent the bones that compose them from making unnatural movements. In other words, they limit their range of motion.

A female marathon runner sitting on the side of the road holding onto her ankle.

When the ligaments have been working for a long time, they can become fatigued and not perform their function properly. Let’s say they get tired, and their reaction speed isn’t the same. It’s therefore not surprising that, during a marathon, any small misstep or twisted ankle can turn into a sprain.

Beware also of heatstroke: marathon injuries

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that heatstroke is also one of the most common injuries in a marathon. Despite not being something strictly physical, it’s another problem we have to deal with. It’s especially applicable in hot climates, and especially if the race takes place around midday or in the early afternoon.

To prevent it, it’s vital to hydrate properly and wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Otherwise, dizziness, cramps, inability to continue running, and even fainting in the street may occur, with the danger that this entails.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • N. Padrós, C. Vicente, R. Ainnad et al. Periostitis tibial. Revista Española de Podología, Vol. 23, Nº 2, 2012, págs. 62-66
  • D. Artidiello, D. Hernández, H. Aguilar Artidiello et al. Fascitis plantar. Revista de Ciencias Médicas de Pinar del Río, Vol. 19, Nº 2, 2015, págs. 206-213
  • A. Diliz. Incidencia de lesiones en corredores de resistencia. Maratonianos vs ultramaratonianos. Tesis para la Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio, 2017

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.