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Foot Pain For Runners: Common Causes And Common Sense Solutions

Spring is a great time to get out and run, and to get out of the house. Don't let running season be ruined by injury. Dr. Kristina DeMatas has some tips on how to deal with some common running injuries.

Kristina Headshot 2020

About the author: Dr. DeMatas practices holistic, evidence-based family medicine that focuses on treating injuries and transforming lives through prevention, rehabilitation, and diet. She is a licensed, practicing physician in Jacksonville, FL.

If you find yourself in pain after a run, you are definitely not alone. Many people have jobs that have them spending hours on their feet, and that, compounded with a healthy running routine, can often add up to foot pain. You don’t have to give up your exercise routine in order to live with less pain - there are many treatment options and training tips that can help you keep on running.

Is It Normal For Your Feet To Hurt After Running?

It’s fairly easy to see how running might cause some pain in your feet. There are 26 bones and 30 joints in your feet, and running can put extra stress on all of them. This can be compounded by other issues like flat feet. So, yes, a large number of adults may experience foot pain due to running. Foot pain can be exacerbated by shin splints, back pain, and other sports injuries.

Common Causes Of Foot Pain

Not all foot pain is created equal. Throughout your running career, it’s important to pay attention to your feet to understand what may be the root cause of your foot problems, pain, and discomfort.

  • Plantar Fasciitis: If you have stabbing heel pain, the cause may be plantar fasciitis. While running may exacerbate the issue, this pain is generally felt most strongly after standing for a long time, going up the stairs, or waking up in the morning after spending the whole night off of your feet.  What is plantar fasciitis? It’s the inflammation of the thick band of fibrous tissue along the bottom of your feet, called the plantar fascia.
  • Metatarsalgia: If you feel like there are pebbles in your shoes or bruising on the balls of your feet, you may be suffering from metatarsalgia. This is when there is excess pressure put on the metatarsal bones - the long bones in your foot. An intense running regimen is one of the primary causes for this type of pain. This is a relatively common overuse injury experienced by runners.
  • Stress Fractures: The impact your foot experiences from running can sometimes cause a stress fracture to develop, frequently in the metatarsal bone. These are small fractures that can be difficult to see on an X-ray or bone scan. If you are experiencing severe foot pain, you should consult with a sports medicine doctor.

Home Treatments For Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common injury that can be very frustrating for active adults. If you feel good otherwise, you may resent the fact that your feet are keeping you from doing the things that you want to do. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help alleviate this foot pain and get running again.

Stretches And Exercises To Relieve Foot Pain

One of the simplest things you can do to relieve foot pain is to get serious about stretching. If you commit to at least 15 to 20 minutes per day, you should be able to see some results and feel some relief. Here are a few easy stretches to relieve foot pain.

Seated Towel Stretch

Tight calf muscles can be a contributing factor to plantar fasciitis pain. This simple stretch requires a towel - and it’s very much like “holding the reins” of a sleigh. This stretches out a tight Achilles tendon.

  • While seated on the floor, stretch your leg in front of you
  • Loop a towel around your injured or painful foot
  • Hold the towel with both hands, and gently pull your foot towards you, while keeping your knee straight
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds, relax, and repeat two more times

Frozen Water Bottle Rolls

Ice is an excellent tool against pain and inflammation, and this exercise combines a little ice with a little massage to help ease foot pain. One of the primary benefits of this exercise is the improvement of blood flow to the affected area.

  • Sit down in a sturdy chair
  • Place your bare foot over a frozen water bottle or juice can
  • Roll your foot back and forth

Massage For Painful Feet

There are several methods of self-massage to help relieve painful feet. You can use your thumbs to massage your heel and foot arch. If you’re unable to reach your feet effectively, a golf ball or other small ball may be effective. Simply use the same method as the frozen water bottle rolls above. If you find that you aren’t getting the most out of self massage, it may be a good idea to consult a physical therapist to help with your running pain.

Wear The Right Running Shoes

You might have the best running technique in the world, but that can’t always prevent sports injuries like plantar fasciitis from occurring. This might be the time to take a look at your running shoes. Are they doing everything for you that they should be?

Your running shoes should distribute your weight evenly throughout your run. If they aren’t doing that, it could be contributing to your heel pain, knee pain, back pain… more than just foot pain. You can give your running shoes an added boost by using shoe inserts to help alleviate pain. With more evenly-distributed weight and arch support, you can not only alleviate pain, you can prevent further pain and aggravation.

You Don’t Have To Run With Pain

Foot pain can really put a damper on your running routine. If you continue running with foot pain, there’s a high likelihood of making it worse. Instead, take care of your feet with some of these home remedies. You should also consider seeing a sports medicine doctor.

By: Dr. Kristina DeMatas

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