How To Know If It’s Best To Rest Or Run

injured runner next to blog title 'best to rest or run'

As we know, most runners will inevitably get injured. Some runners love running so much that they won’t stop running when injured. If this resonates with you then this blog should help your run or rest dilemma. Inspired by Tom Goom’s running repairs online course, we will discuss elements of your injury to determine if it’s best to rest or run.

#1: Is it a possible Stress fractures?

It seems when it comes to generic running guidelines when injured, stress fractures are always the exception to the rule. Therefore, stress fractures and other serious pathologies should be treated differently. Because this condition is often mis-diagnosed for a long period of time, it’s important that effective treatment begins as soon as possible. Appropriate scans like an MRI will identify bony stress reactions along with medial recovery guideline based on the extent and location of the fracture. In most cases, stress fractures are managed with a period of time non-weight baring, followed by a slow return. Therefore, the decision to ‘rest or run’ is made on a completely different basis.

#2: Rest or run: Risk vs Reward

The runner & associated medical team (for example: physiotherapist & running coach) should come together and weigh up the risks and your presenting circumstances. You may discuss the benefit of running through an injury giving the time of your running season or upcoming races and weigh up the risks associated. In most cases the risks would include the likelihood of exacerbating the injury. If you had weeks or months up your sleeve before a race, you might want to approach the situation more conservatively and lower that risk of exacerbation.

#3: What is the Response to loading

This can be easily administered by your physiotherapist to help determine if your injury can tolerate various degrees of loading. For example, hopping on the effected side for 30 seconds is a good indication if running can begin. Once passing the hop test, methodically increase loading with a return to run program. This process will be accompanied with monitoring of symptoms to ensure the body is responding well. General guidelines recommend no more than 5/10 pain during a run or 24 hours after a given bout of running.

#4: Psychological welfare

It is very important to factor in the mental state of a runner if they are unable to run due to injury. A lot of runners run for positive mental health and removing that outlet can greatly affect someone’s overall outcome. If running is not advised, it’s equally important to substitute running with something just as meaningful. For example walking in nature, hiking, bike riding or group fitness classes. Based on the type of injury, modifications might need to be made but staying active and in a positive mindset is crucial.


As a physiotherapist, my first question is always ‘what are all the things I can do within my power to keep this individual running?’ If a runner can modify their training so they can tolerate running, their recovery will be optimized.

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