Cycling causing running problems?

Hello all,

I have just completed week 3 of C25k and am really struggling with foot and ankle pain. The best analogy I can give is that every running step feels like bone hitting concrete. Not good!

I am 46yr old man, slim, and I cycle between 80 – 100 miles a week commuting to work. My wife suggested it may be that my legs are used to a certain motion when cycling so the muscles are tending to want to move them in a way not suitable for running. I had this problem from week 1, and am running on alternate days, with 1 day break in between, but it isn't getting any better. I find after the 5 minute warm up walk I can barely run even the first few steps due to discomfort, but just grit my teeth and carry on, although by the end of the last run (3 mins now) it is a little easier, but maybe that is the relief of knowing it is nearly over!

In the past I have run with no problems – 2 years ago I used to be able to do about 4k - but I didn't cycle regularly then. I am running in trainers I have used previously to run in, so don’t think that is the cause.

I’m going to rest up for an extra day or so before trying again at the weekend, but really hope I don't have to give up.

Any thoughts or advice would be very much appreciated.

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4 Replies

  • Hi Court_Jester.

    Your wife is right to some extent - running will excercise different muscles to cycling. However it sounds like you have something else going on as well. Do you stretch before and (more importantly!) after exercise? Possibly your muscles are very tight. It may be worth investing in a session with a suitably qualified sports masseuse, as they can give an educated view. Worst case scenario is that you might be reccomended to visit a physio for a course of a few sessions.

    You should consider a regular (fortnightly) sports massage or a monthly sports massage alongside regular (2-3 times a week) attendance at Pilates classes. Pilates classes are great for runners and cyclists becuase they help strengthen the muscles, such as the core, and those around the hips, knees and ankles, which in turn will help your technique. However it is vitally important that you stretch after every training session.

    You may also want to visit a specialist running shop. Your old running shoes may no longer be suitable as cycling may have changed your gait. You can get different running shoes depending on if you under- or over- pronate. Alternatively, you may have high arches, which need support from gels or slip in soles.

    In the mean time, maybe just try running at a lower intensity or for shorter periods initially. Running on a treadmill may also help as it is lower impact than running outside.

  • Hi Tanyag,

    Thank you so much for your ideas. I haven't been stretching before running, but did a bit after (although maybe a bit half hearted...). I will make an effort to do proper stretches which may well help as sometimes it did feel as though my muscles were tight. I half wonder if the warm up walk doesn't get enough motion into my joints and muscles and I will try stretching and doing some ankle rotation between the walk and the run.

    Had not thought of Pilates - had heard of it but knew nothing about it! Will have a look-see, as sounds like a good all rounder for technique. Anything that develops core muscles is a good thing anyway. I guess it is easy to forget that running and cycling is more than just the legs.

    I wonder if I have been a bit naive about my running shoes and if my style of gait has now changed, and what used to be fine is now totally wrong. I may have to bite the bullet and get a proper video analysis done - I know there are a couple of the shops in this area that offer it.

    I did have a browse on the net and did come across a post in an online running magazine where someone mentioned similar symptoms; they suggested that apart from getting professional shoe fitting that sometimes it is easy to try to over exert and not allow enough time for the legs and feet to develop.

    Feel a bit more positive now and will see if I can get myself back on track. The good thing is I am not trying to meet any deadlines so if it takes twice of three times as many weeks to get to 5k then so be it!

    Thanks again for the good advice.

  • I agree with your wife a little in that "it may be that my legs are used to a certain motion when cycling so the muscles are tending to want to move them in a way not suitable for running." But I wouldn't say 'not suitable', but 'not used to' running, Think about all the tri-athletes that run and cycle.

    Do you use cleats? I've read that by keeping your feet at a set angle these may make it more difficult for your leg muscles to get used to running. When I started running in July 2012, i wasn't cycling a lot - the occasional 10 mile mountain bike ride. But last summer I was cycle commuting about the same distance a week as you - 30 miles round trip, on average 3 days a week, and 15 miles round trip 1 day a week. I was running twice a week, one run was often 15-20km and had no problems. I don't use cleats, but have toe clips with straps that are not tight.

    Like tanyag suggests, why not visit a local running shop that offer gait analysis. They may video as you run on a treadmill and you'll be able to see how your foot is landing. If they are not able to help you, it may be worthwhile visiting a sports physiotherapist ; they usually cost about £30-£40 for the initial hour-long consultation. The local running shop may recommend one.

  • Morning Swanscot,

    Interesting that you mention about tri-athletes - that had crossed my mind too (partly to give me hope that I wasn't a lost cause!). That is really encouraging to hear that you were combining both running and cycling with no issues.

    No I don't use cleats or toe clips. As a rule am cycling 5 consecutive days a week 10 miles each way, except when it is very windy, so has been a bit less over the past few weeks. Possibly I could do worse than go for a walk at lunchtimes and also when I get home to get my legs used to different styles of movement. At the moment it is cycling and then mainly sitting for a big chunk of the working day.

    A sports physio may be a good idea too, and that is not bad for an hour consultation. Could be money well spent.

    Is looking like Spring is around the corner now so hopefully the ground may be drying out a bit and I can get onto softer surfaces when I am ready.

    Thanks for the help.

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