9 Common Foot Injuries For Runners

At least half of all runners will suffer from injuries in any given year, a review seen in Current Sports Medicine Reports reveals, with many cases linked to the feet. But foot pain can be hard to manage. Is it a serious injury? Just an ache? Are you able to persist or will you make the situation worse?

We requested two podiatrists to provide us with an overview of the most typical foot injuries for runners. Stephen M. Dr Pribut, who was the past president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine, is an avid runner himself and has cared for Olympians.

Lisa M. Schoene has had much experience in the sports-medicine podiatry field and possesses an athletic training credential. He has been treating patients for the last 28 years.

Pribut and Schoene both stated that the majority of ailments associated with running are due to excessive use, ill-suited shoes, or the abrupt change from one type of shoe to another.

Natural foot shape and biomechanics also play a role. This guide is beneficial in helping you determine the cause of your foot pain and what you need to do to start the healing process.

This should not be viewed as a substitute for visiting a physician. If you are suffering from long-term or intense agony, arrange a meeting with a doctor.

Common Foot Injuries for Runners

1. Plantar Fasciitis 

The most common foot injury that athletes who run experience are plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of the plantar fascia ligaments on the bottom of the foot that connect the heel bone to the bones of the forefoot.

The plantar fascia helps maintain the shape of the arch of the foot, as well as providing a spring-like action that helps move the individual forward.

Typical indications and effects consist of soreness in the heel, which could present as a dull, pointed, or burning sensation, either directly below the calcaneus (heel bone) or near the front of it.

Generally, the agony will begin gradually and become more severe over days or weeks. Your motivation can be most powerful when you get up in the morning or while you are out for a jog.

  • Overuse from an increase in training volume or intensity
  • Switching to a zero-drop shoe or a pair of shoes with less arch support
  • Tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles
  • Weight gain, which adds unaccustomed stress to the plantar fascia

Lessen your exercise time and strength or, even better, stop running altogether for a few weeks. Schoene advises that if you persist in running with plantar fasciitis, the injury will worsen, but you can still take part in other physical activities.

In your day-to-day activities, use shoes that provide lots of cushioning, arch backing, and raised heels. Genuinely – any shoe style, whether it’s a 12-millimetre drop running shoe, clogs or a pair of kitten heels, will reduce the strain on your plantar fascia. Avoid going barefoot.

When you return to running, ease back into it. It might be beneficial to switch back to the running shoes you were wearing before the onset of the pain if you had changed to another pair in the days leading up to it.

You should get a shoe with lots of cushioning, a tall heel-to-toe ratio, and strong arch support. Should the heel pain reappear, it would be wise to seek out the advice of a specialist as they could suggest orthotics as a solution.

Do 20 repetitions of a towel crunch exercise once or twice each day: put a towel on the floor, put your foot on top of it, and then curl your toes to grip onto a piece of the cloth.

Stretch your calves from a step. Stretch the arches of your feet by gently rolling them on a soft massage ball or tennis ball, avoiding a more firm lacrosse ball. In particular, be very gentle when applying pressure near the heel. Using either a foam roller or a massage stick, extend your lower legs to relax your calves and Achilles.

2. Achilles Tendonitis

The tendon that links the calf muscle to the heel is the Achilles tendon, and it is put under continual strain. When the calf muscle tightens, it lifts the heel, allowing us to propel ourselves with the toes when we are running, walking, or jumping.

Eventually, this can cause irritation, slight rips, and tendon inflammation. Tendonitis can be found in the attachment point between the Achilles and the heel bone, right down the centre of the tendon, and even up near the top where the tendon is connected to the calf muscle.

Soreness or a throbbing sensation behind the ankle, from the heel to the beginning of the calf muscle, is a common symptom of Achilles tendonitis. This area can also swell and become red.

  • Overuse from an increase in training volume or intensity
  • Hill workouts (running uphill puts more strain on the Achilles)
  • Change in running stride (heel strike to midfoot strike, or vice versa)
  • Worn-out shoes or switching to a flatter or less supportive shoe
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Hip and core weakness
Take a break from running. “It’s unwise to push through Achilles tendonitis for probably 95 per cent of the people who have it,” says Schoene. “There could be microscopic tears, and you just don’t want to mess with Achilles.” Low-impact cross-training is still fine.
Wear heels, heel lifts, or high-drop shoes to take the strain off the tendon. Resist the urge to walk barefoot, even at home.  “Don’t overstretch,” says Pribut. “That’s very important.
If you have tendonitis at the insertion point, you can yank the tendon right off the bone.” Avoid eccentric calf stretching (dropping your heel off a step) for a few weeks. Try toe crunches (see above) for this as well.
Roll out your lower legs once or twice daily. Once the initial pain, swelling, and inflammation have subsided, begin a strength-training routine to target the calves, the core, and the hips.

3. Shin Splints

Shin splints is a phrase used to describe soreness and discomfort in the front of the legs (the tibialis anterior muscles), also referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome. The tibia, or shin bone, is the larger of the two bones in the lower leg. This strain occurs around the middle of the tibia and the adjacent tissue.

This type of injury is a result of excessive use and involves swelling and possible tiny tears in the back of the tibialis muscle (the muscle responsible for providing stability to the lower leg). In addition, the tissue and bone surrounding it are also swollen.

Usually, shin splints manifest as an aching or throbbing ache in the anterior or interior area of the lower leg that is situated between the knee and ankle. Pain may be felt for a full day, yet usually, the most intense sensation is experienced each time the foot contacts the ground and immediately after exercise.

Overuse from an increase in training volume or intensity

  • Poor foot mechanics, including overpronation (foot rolls inward), which puts repetitive tension and stress on the tibialis posterior muscle and tendon, which hold up the arch
  • Worn-out or unsupportive shoes that allow overpronation
  • Frequent running on hard surfaces, such as pavement or a track

If the discomfort isn’t worsening, you can continue to exercise, although if you opt for low-impact cross-training rather than running until the swelling and discomfort lessen, you will recover much quicker.

If you keep trying, it’ll be beneficial to reduce the amount you run and the effort put in, steer clear of inclines, and opt for trails over the pavement. After running, apply ice for 20 minutes, followed by 45 minutes without ice, repeating this cycle three times.

Get a coach or doctor who has been trained to evaluate your foot structure. If you have a slight tendency to overpronate, it may be advantageous for you to purchase footwear that has motion control and improved foot arch support. One should consult with a foot doctor about having custom-made orthotics if there is a severe overpronation issue.

By correcting excessive overpronation, the strain put on the tibialis posterior muscle and tendon is alleviated, allowing for a swifter healing period and avoiding any further injury.

Bend your calves and massage your lower legs (just be careful to stay away from the shin bone). Once the first ache has decreased, start a weightlifting program targeting the back of the legs, the middle of the body, and the hips.

4. MT Stress Fracture

When running, you experience discomfort on the top of your foot around the metatarsals, although the pain is not present when resting. When the discomfort intensifies, it can cause difficulty while walking. Touching it can be painful, or it might make you alter your running gait.

The metatarsals are the long bones in your foot. Out of the five bones in the foot, the second and third metatarsals are the most often broken while running.

Exercising heavily (such as jumping, dancing, or running) can cause harm to the foot bones, resulting in them being broken down and rebuilt as a new ones.

If the process of forming new bone takes more time than the process of absorption, the bone is at risk of breaking. Those with slim bones that are extended in length are more prone to suffering from stress fractures. Osteoporosis can also cause stress fractures.

The only sure way to verify if there is a fracture to the metatarsals is by consulting a medical expert and undergoing an MRI examination, since some stress fractures may not be seen by an X-ray.

Typically, those who are afflicted must wear a cast-like device around their foot and ankle for the bone to mend correctly. Mr Evans comments that the treatment plan lasts two months, avoiding putting weight on the affected area the initial half and then gradually adding the weight while wearing a boot the remaining time.

It is recommended to strengthen your feet and legs by getting adequate sleep and doing foot and calf workouts.

5. Morton’s Neuroma

An irritation of a group of nerves situated between the long bones of the foot.

A sharp ache in the midsection of your foot, near the centre of the arch. Pain resulting from nerve issues can extend down to your toes and lead to tingling and a lack of feeling. Some equate the feeling to standing on a pebble.

A Morton’s neuroma is an inflammation of a group of nerves located between the toes, which can stem from physical activities done to excess, feet that aren’t in good condition, and shoes that don’t fit correctly or have a significant heel. This area of the foot where you make contact with the ground while running can also generate chronic pain from regular trauma.

Check your running shoes. Are the midsoles worn? Have they surpassed their mileage? Perhaps you need a more supportive shoe. It might be wise for you to invest in shoes that are a little wider, which will offer your feet more room to move and will have less of a sloping heel.

You can support the area temporarily by using an over-the-counter product such as Dr Scholl’s metatarsal pad. Although cortisone injections can be used to lessen inflammation, the discomfort could return or stay the same if the shot does not succeed.

6. Posterior Tibial Tendinitis

Discomfort in the internal area of the foot and ankle, as well as hurting on the outer side of the ankle caused by extra stress from the heel bone moving.

The back inside of the leg is home to the posterior tibial muscle, which goes down the outside of the ankle and underneath the foot.

Posterior tibial tendonitis is an inflammation or tear of the posterior tibial tendon due to excessive strain or use. This condition is more commonly found in those who supinate and have high arches when running.

Ice and rest for immediate treatment. It might be necessary to wear a walking boot, a brace, or an orthotic to stop the injury from getting worse.

Carry out some preventive actions like attempting towel stretches, where sitting on the floor with your extended injured limb facing forward, wrapping a towel around your toes, softly tugging the sides for 15 to 30 seconds; and doing heel lifts and calf stretches.

7. Peroneal Tendinitis

The agony outside of the ankle gets more severe during running. At the site, one may feel some puffiness and that it is warm when being touched.

The peroneal tendons are located on the exterior of the ankle, behind the fibula, which is the bone in the calf region. The peroneus longus tendon travels along the back of the fibula and passes beneath the foot, attaching itself to the first metatarsal.

The peroneal brevis tendon is the smaller of the two and is attached to the fifth metatarsal. Shoes that do not provide adequate cushioning can irritate the tendon due to poor ankle stability.

Having shoes with better cushioning and taking a break for a few weeks plus taking medicines to reduce inflammation can help comfort the pain associated with tendinitis in the peroneal area. A longer period of healing may be needed if a torn ankle is complicated.

8. Bunions

A tender and swollen bump; the discomfort increases when wearing restrictive shoes. A hardening lump can be spotted on your foot, usually on the lower side of your big toe or the side of your smaller toe, also known as a tailor’s bunion.

If you get a bunion, it may cause you to limp or walk differently, resulting in agony in your big toe, little toe, or the area around the base of your foot.

Your foot’s joints become misaligned, causing the end of your big toe, for instance, to be drawn towards your other toes. This leads to the joint protruding and creating a bony swelling. Ill-fitting shoes and genetics may result in a bunion, as well as weakened arches.

Evans states that this phenomenon is also found in those who lack decent arch support. The tendons in your arch become weakened gradually due to ageing, resulting in the appearance of a bunion at the side of the foot. Having shoes that are supportive and fit your arch type appropriately can really help keep the disease from getting worse.

Using shoes with a wider toe section and special socks, like OS1st BR4 Bunion Relief Socks, can help minimize bunion discomfort. Padding such as that sold in drug stores or moleskin can also be put inside your shoes to provide some additional cushioning.

At the same time, if you choose to don high-heeled shoes, you ought to rest your feet, since they push your toes to the front of your shoe. If the discomfort is intolerable, you should discuss with your physician the use of bunion supports, injections or surgery as options.

9. Metatarsalgia

Experiencing aching in the area at the centre of your foot which can occasionally seem as though you are walking on a tiny stone.

Metatarsalgia is inflammation of the metatarsals. It is regularly seen in athletes who have high arches because the muscles that are located above the arch cause the metatarsal heads (the ball of the foot) to be more noticeable.

Age is another factor. As you age and the layer of fat on your foot begins to decrease, you become more likely to suffer from insidious swelling of your metatarsals. A woman who is pregnant may experience a decrease in the padding underneath her feet.

Ice and rest. Strengthen your feet by doing exercises like grabbing a cloth with your toes and bunching it up.


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