3 Most Common Foot Problems for Runners
Did you know that during a run, your feet strike the ground around 800 times per mile? It’s no wonder that the most common injuries plaguing runners are found in the foot. But the good news is that many of these injuries can be prevented.
The most common foot complain of runners is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous tissue that stretches along the bottom of the foot from the toes to the heel. It is prone to tearing when the foot is overworked, usually occurring at the point where the fascia attaches to the heel. Because the fascia has a poor blood supply, it can be a slow-healing chronic condition.
Runners who over-train or neglect to stretch the calf muscles are affected most often. To remedy plantar faciitis, cut back on your running mileage, especially hills and speedwork. When you do run, be sure that you stretch your calves and hamstrings well. Immediately after running, ice your feet – ten minutes on and ten minutes off. Anti-inflammatory medications can reduce swelling and help with the pain.
To prevent the problem from reoccurring, you may need arch support which shifts the weight burden off the heel. Heel pads may also help. If the pain continues, you may want to check into orthotics.
Metatarsalgia (Ball of Foot Pain)
Running and jumping are two activities that can lead to the ball of the foot becoming inflamed and painful. You may experience symptoms such as a sharp aching or burning pain in the ball of the foot (just behind the toes) or pain that worsens when you stand or flex your foot but improves upon rest.
Improperly fitted shoes could be the cause of your pain. If you experience metatarsalgia, you may need shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports. Also avoid athletic shoes with a narrow toe box which can contribute to metatarsal problems. Another contributor to pain is worn out shoes, so be sure to replace your running shoes as recommended.
The Achilles tendon picks up where the plantar fascia leaves off – running from the heel to the calf. This is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. It propels you forward when you run, but if over-worked, can become inflamed.
Achilles tendonitis is characterized by a dull or sharp pain anywhere along the back of the tendon, but usually close to the heel. Other symptoms include limited ankle flexibility, redness or heat over the painful area or a cracking sound when the ankle moves.
Tight or fatigued calf muscles brought on by not stretching properly, increasing mileage too quickly, overtraining, excessive hill running or speedwork can lead to Achilles tendonitis. Inflexible running shoes may also be to blame. Runners who over-pronate (feet rotate too far inward on impact) are most susceptible to the injury.
If you have Achilles pain, stop running and do not resume running until you can do toe raises without pain. Ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day and take an anti-inflammatory medication. If the injury does not respond to self-treatment in two weeks, see a physician that specializes in runner injury.
Runner’s World Magazine