Running: common foot problems

Common foot problems for runners

It is no surprise that your feet will occasionally suffer injuries if you run regularly – but this does not stop it being hugely frustrating.

Essentially, your poor little feet are carrying your whole weight – often on rough terrain – as you pound the floor for extended periods of time; so of course they are going to suffer a little. While your eyes take in beautiful views and the exercise causes floods of serotonin into your brain, your feet soldier on with the grunt work.

The logical problem here is that as soon as your feet hurt, your whole running schedule can be thrown out of whack – this can be especially annoying if you are training for an event rather than just running for fun. Before looking at some of the most common foot complaints, it is useful to think about what you can do to prevent injuries.

When it comes down to it, the most important advice is to not push yourself too hard; this means not running too far or too fast, as well as giving yourself enough rest and not running too often.

Protect yourself

One of the most common remedies for foot problems is to rest for a few weeks or months. However, as a runner, this is a cruel and unusual punishment that can cause you to go out of your mind.

Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that you will at some point suffer an injury, so the key is to minimise your risk. This starts with basic safety precautions such as comprehensive stretching regimes before and after runs, as well as making sure your trainers are comfortable – this latter issue is often to blame for common problems.

You can find all sorts of theories from sports physios about technique and equipment that can help – for example, barefoot running is currently en vogue – but you can also always find someone who vehemently disagrees with theories, so just try ideas out for yourself. Altered lacing, foot exercises and different running styles are among the things you might like to try.

Common foot problems


Arch pain – this tends to be an issue for people with flatter feet. Inflammation under the arch of the foot may mean you need inserts in your shoes to prevent further problems. Icing and resting the area in question is recommended.

Stress fracture – it commonly affects the metatarsal bone along the top of the foot and will often not be caused by a singular incident – it is an incomplete break and may require treatment as well as rest, although do check that the pain is not simply being caused by tightly laced shoes.
Black toenail – this sounds almost medieval, but is actually just blood building up under the nail from hitting the front of the shoe and can be treated or left to grow out. The nail may fall off, but this is actually not painful or unhealthy.

Heel pain – also known as ‘plantar fasciitis’, this is when the heel ligament becomes inflamed and painful to run on – there is also the possibility that you could develop a heel spur if you do not rest it sufficiently.

Tendonitis and ankle sprains – tendonitis can affect joints all over the body; stretch properly and rest up to avoid problems. Repetitive strain can be the cause, or sometimes a previous injury. In contrast, ankle sprains mean that the ligament has been stretched or damaged – depending on the severity, it can need anything from a couple of weeks to several months rehabilitation.

Numbness – a common complaint, numbness after running may not be anything to worry about, particularly for people who know they have circulation issues. It could be a symptom of a broader illness such as diabetes, or it might just be tight trainers.

Blisters and corns – these occur as a result of the pressure and rubbing on your feet during running; usually special socks, lubrication or better footwear will ease them.



 
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