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How to manage niggles (minor soreness or discomfort)
How to manage niggles (minor soreness or discomfort)

Don't know when to push on and when to add in a rest day? Give this article a read to find out all you need about niggles and minor injuries

Ben avatar
Written by Ben
Updated over a week ago

What is a niggle?

A niggle is a pain that is subtle and may cause slight but persistent annoyance. It might happen during or after a run; either way, you should pay attention to it, because it's your body's way of telling you something is (slightly) off.

Niggles are often warning signs of injury and, if ignored, can result in an injury. They are generally caused by overly fatigued muscles, an increase in impact, or an area of tightness or rubbing, and tend to get worse with training.

It's important not to ignore your niggles so that you can avoid injury and keep on training!

Runners running through a forest away from the camera

What should I do if I have a niggle?

Niggles are your body's warning signs that there's something that needs your attention. Here's what to do if you have a niggle from running:

  1. Identify if anything has changed in your routine or training. This could be the root of the problem. Have you stopped strength work or stretching? Are you sleeping less or feeling more stressed? Have you introduced a new pair of running shoes to your shoe rotation?

  2. Try to rest more and spend less time loading the area. For example, if you have a sore foot, reduce the time on your feet. This might mean taking a few days off from running or switching to a different sport to prevent your niggle from getting worse.

  3. Test the body with an easy run. Begin with a good quality warm up and listen to your body to see if the niggle is getting worse. If it feels good, you can continue your running plan whilst continuing to assess your body If it gets worse you need total rest and should take it more seriously.

  4. Don't ignore strength training. Focus on supporting strength work to reduce the risk of the niggle reoccurring or becoming worse.

  5. Do mobility work. Recovery and mobility work is essential in helping alleviate niggles and soothe discomfort.

  6. If needed, reduce your weekly training volume. Be prepared to reduce your weekly mileage or the number of running days when returning to running.

How do I prevent niggles?

There are a few things you can do to prevent niggles from occurring or worsening. If you're reading this article, you've probably already had a few running-related niggles, so you know all too well that prevention is the best cure.

  • Add strength and mobility training to your routine to improve your running efficiency and stability

  • Ensure you are using the correct running form to prevent unnecessary strain on certain parts of your body

  • Increase your weekly mileage gradually, by approx. 10% per week, to avoid overloading your muscles and joints

  • Warm up before heading out the door to prepare your body for the run

  • Get enough recovery and sleep to let your body heal and strengthen – overtraining is a common cause of niggles

If you're often experiencing niggles in the same area or if a particular niggle doesn't resolve on its own, consult a physiotherapist to identify the cause. They'll give you exercises to correct any muscular imbalances that might be putting unnecessary strain on a particular area.

Following a well-structured training plan can help manage your workload and reduce the risk of niggles or injuries, especially if it includes strength training and mobility work.

Is it more serious? Am I injured?

It's really important to be careful when we have niggles from running as they could be a warning sign of an overuse and a potential injury that's just around the corner.

They could also be your body's way of telling you that you are over-loading one side, running 'wonky' or have a muscular imbalance. All of these things are good to know as they give us a direction of how to overcome it.

However, as a general rule of thumb:

  • A niggle often doesn't alter the way that you move your body. If it causes you to limp or alter your stride pattern, this could be a sign of an injury and could exacerbate an existing disbalance.

  • A niggle often feels like a dull ache caused by fatigued muscles rather than a sharp pain. If the pain is acute, you should check in with your physio.

  • A niggle is classed as a minor soreness or discomfort. Anything more than that may be more serious.

  • A niggle often gets better over time (within 1-2 weeks). If it doesn't, it might be time to get it assessed and treated.

If you think you may have an injury, we'd recommend getting advice from a medical professional to get an assessment and prevent it from worsening.

If you're recovering from an injury and looking to get back to running, check out our post-injury training plans to rebuild your running performance safely.

A group of people stretching on the track

Recovery and more information

If you want further information about a specific injury or help reducing your risk, check out the Injury Management section of the Support tab from within your Runna app.

We have plenty of information about different types of injuries and strength training exercises you can incorporate into your running routine.

If you use Runna, you can add our strength training program to your training plan to level up your running game without risking an injury. Check out our training plans to find the one that's right for you.

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