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When choosing a specialist to help pinpoint a running injury, look for one who treats many runners. Ideally, your physician should diagnose your problem-and have a network of trusted specialists who can help treat it and ensure that it doesn’t recur.

A physician who sees many endurance athletes will likely have the experience and skill to accurately diagnose the problem, as well as the expertise to suggest safe and effective cross-training alternatives. Below are some types of specialists and what you can expect from each.

  • A primary-care sports medicine (PCSM) physician can diagnose and treat a broad spectrum of running injuries, including acute injuries that don’t require surgery and musculoskeletal problems such as overuse injuries. PCSM physicians also deal with sports-related medical problems such as hormonal or nutritional issues.
  • A physiatrist specializes in physical medicine, rehabilitation, and pain medicine. Physiatrists offer non-surgical treatment of pain and injuries to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. They diagnose and treat many kinds of injuries, but often have special expertise in treating back or neck pain and other spine-related problems. 
  • An orthopedic surgeon offers both surgical and non-surgical treatment of sports injuries. If your injury doesn't respond to conservative treatment and requires surgery (for example, if your knee is locking or giving way), you should look for an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports injuries.
  • A podiatrist (DPM) specializes in problems of the foot, ankle, and lower leg. If you have bunions, plantar fasciitis, or a neuroma - or if you need tools such as customized orthotics, a podiatrist can help.

Depending on your diagnosis, you may also want to consult other specialists for treatment and rehab. A physical therapist, massage therapist, exercise physiologist, chiropractor, or coach may also help to get you back on the roads.


Polly de Mille

Polly de Mille (RN, RCEP, CSCS, USAT 1) is performance coordinator at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center and at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center.

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