Learn the best ways to deal with various foot injuries and pain associated with or caused by running.
Our feet take a lot when we run, which is why foot pain and foot injuries are often associated with running. It is estimated that when we run the force exerted with each step is equal to triple our body weight. And since our feet are where that impact falls, much of the impact must be absorbed by those poor heels, arches, metatarsals and toes. When you couple this with the fact that the average runner takes between 600-800 steps per mile, you can see that the forces being placed on our feet are extraordinary!
Our feet are complex and have many different parts to them. Consequently, pain and injury can be experienced in a lot of different ways. Some are easy to deal with, and some are more difficult. What follows is a list of the different problem areas and some of the most typical injuries experienced in these areas.
Blisters, Corns and Calluses are among the most common, and the most easily treatable of running injuries. Blisters are an almost universal phenomenon, and most of us have experience “popping” a blister.
- Causes: Heat or friction
- Cure: Cleanse the area with an antiseptic and then pop the blister. Let all the fluid out and then keep the area clean and dry.
Corns and Calluses
- Description: Corns and calluses are related, though corns are usually on toes, whereas calluses are elsewhere on the foot, particularly the sole of the foot.
- Causes: The skin responds to an area of pressure or friction by thickening and toughening. This provides protection from more painful injuries, such as blistes.
- Cures: There is no need to remove a callus or corn unless it is causing you pain. Treatment methods include changing running shoes and using a “doughnut” pad.
Click this link for an article with more detailed information on dealing with blisters, corns and calluses.
Top of the Foot
Pain on the top of the foot can occasionally be something serious, but usually is not. There are basically two kinds of “top of foot” injuries – metatarsal stress fractures, and general pain
Metatarsal Stress Fracture
- Description: Sharp pain on the top of the foot, near the front but before the toes. Metatarsals are the long thin bones that attach to the toes.
- Causes: Usually caused by a sudden increase in mileage, intensity, or both.
- Cures: If you think you have this injury you need to see a doctor right away. Rest and ice will help. However, getting to a doctor for help will ensure you get over the injury as quickly as possible. Delaying will usually result in making the injury worse.
General Top of Foot Pain
- Description: Sharp pains anywhere on the top of the foot, but usually not in the front-most part of the foot. The pain is usually worst while wearing shoes and for several hours afterwards.
- Causes: The shoes are too tight, too small, or the laces are tied too tightly.
- Cures: Loosen the laces of your shoes. It sounds simple, but this is usually the cause. If loosening the laces doesn’t cure the problem in a day or two, try wearing larger shoes.
Click this link for an article with more detailed information on dealing with metatarsal stress fractures and other top of foot pain.
Toes and Toenails
Toe and toenail injuries are common among runners. The most frequently reported are:
- Description: One of your toenails is, you know, black.
- Causes: Pressure on the toe has caused bleeding under the nail.
- Cures: The blood should be released if this is at all painful. Best to have a doctor do it.
- Description: One or more toes won’t stay straight.
- Causes: Shoes that are too short. The tendons on the bottom of your toes have shortened and won’t stretch out again.
- Cures: Wear shoes that are looser in the toes.
- Description: A swelling near the bone connecting to the big toe that sticks out at the side
- Causes: The big toe is angling in, overlapping the 2nd toe. As a result, the ball of the big toe grows
- Cures: Unfortunately, there are no cures. However, a bunion pad works wonders to relieve the pain
- Description: Usually described as a burning sensation between the toes, or like electricity shooting through the affected area. The pain is often characterized as “excruciating”. The pain can come and go, and there is no swelling or bumps associated with it.
- Causes: This is a common problem for people who have a “loose foot”, i.e. there is too much movement between the metatarsals (bones that connect to the toes).
- Cures: See the link, below, for information on helpful remedies for neuromas.
For more detailed information on how to treat or prevent these injuries, see this article.
The most common heel injuries are plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. In fact, these are two of the most common running injuries, period.
Both have similar causes and treatments. The best helps are stretching the calves, wearing a night splint, icing, strengthening the feet, and orthotics.
Click this link for an article with more detailed information on dealing with plantar fasciitis and heel spurs.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when dealing with foot injuries, as with most injuries related to running. Injuries are usually caused by one or more of a few things:
- Increase of training volume or intensity
- Lack of flexibility in key muscle groups
- Lack of strength in key muscle motions
- Old, bad-fitting running shoes, or shoes that are inappropriate for your running style/form.
Whenever you begin to experience any injury due to running it is a good idea to assess these areas and make corrections.