Running – Top 10 Causes Of Foot Pain

Your feet are very important to running. They have to deal with a lot of force and are responsible for moving you forward. This can often lead to foot pain for runners.

Running does not have to be painful. You should not keep going if it is painful or worse, quit. Here are the most common causes of running foot pain, along with their main causes and what you should do if you suspect your foot pain is caused by any of them:

1. Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of your plantar fascia. Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of pain in the foot from running. Your plantar fascia is a web-like tissue that stretches across the bottom of your foot from your heel to your toe. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of your plantar fascia.

If you overstretch your plantar fascia, it can become irritated, causing pain and inflammation. In severe cases, the plantar fascia can tear.

If you think you have plantar fasciitis, it’s important to act quickly. The condition can worsen quickly and be difficult to treat.

How to treat Plantar Fasciitis:

Stretch and roll your calf

You should stretch your calves for 20 seconds at a time, three times a day. You can do this by dropping your heel off a step. However, don’t do this if it causes you pain. In addition, you should use a foam roller to massage your calf.

Stretch your plantar fascia

To ease tension in your feet, sit on the ground and loop a belt or band around the ball of your foot. Pull the belt towards you and hold it for 20 seconds. Repeat this 3 times a day. You can also roll a golf ball or lacrosse ball around the arch area of your foot. Another way to ease tension is to use a massage gun on the area for about 2 minutes.

Ice and heat

Put some Epsom salt in a tub of warm water and roll your feet on a ball while soaking to improve circulation and reduce inflammation.

Take a break from running

Do not run if it causes pain to your big toe. Instead, take a break and find a cross-training activity that you like.

Consider injections

A cortisone shot could potentially help reduce the inflammation. Injections of Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), which is drawn from the patient’s own blood, could help with healing, as well as surgery.

2. Stress Fractures

There are 26 bones in your foot, and they can easily become stressed and fractured when running!

A stress reaction or stress fracture of these bones is commonly caused by the breakdown of collagen—a protein that makes up our bones and other connective tissues. The most common overuse injury among runners is tiny cracks or severe bruising in the metatarsal bones, which are the middle bones of the foot. These types of injuries can also occur in the heel, ankle, or top of the foot (navicular). A stress reaction or stress fracture of these bones is typically caused by the breakdown of collagen, which is a protein that makes up our bones and other connective tissues.

How to treat a stress fracture:

See a doctor

If you think you might have a stress fracture, you should see a doctor. They can do imaging to figure out what’s going on.

Practice RICE

RICE is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate. These are steps that can help promote healing.

Focus on nutrition

Eating a diet that includes healthy whole foods like meat, dairy, and leafy greens will help with bone remodelling.

Wear a medical boot

You will need to take a break from running for 4 to 8 weeks, during which time you will likely have to wear a boot. Find a cross-training activity that does not put stress on your foot, such as swimming or cycling, to stay in shape during this time.

3. Hallux Rigidus

Your big toe is very important for running. The joint of your big toe, where the metatarsophalangeal, or MTP, connects to the metatarsal bone in the forefoot to the phalanx, the bottom bone of the big toe, is where a lot of the propulsion comes from in your stride.

The big toe joint bends to allow the foot to roll forward and “toe off” the ground when running, which can lead to stiffness in the joint, known as “hallux rigidus.”

This joint can become stiff from osteoarthritis or inflammation from overuse. You can also sprain or stub this joint.

How to treat Hallux Rigidus:

Wear proper shoes

It is important to wear shoes that offer support for your feet, such as running shoes. This will help to reduce further stress on the MTP joint.

Stretch the toe joint

and can be done before or after a workout. To improve mobility, pull your big toe towards you and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat by pulling it down and then side to side. Repeat two to four times three times a day. This can be done before or after a workout.

Ice and heat

Soak your feet in a bucket of ice water for a few minutes, then dry them off and soak them in a bucket of warm water for a few minutes.

Take a break from running

If you’re experiencing pain in your big toe during or after running, try cross-training instead.

Take anti-inflammatories

If you regularly use anti-inflammatories and have a cortisone shot, this may help reduce the inflammation. If you have a cortisone shot, you will need to take a break from running as it can damage tissue.

4. Metatarsalgia

The condition can cause severe pain, making it difficult to walk or even stand. Metatarsalgia is the inflammation of the tissues surrounding the five long bones in your foot (metatarsals). The condition can cause severe pain, making it difficult to walk or even stand.

This is a common injury that people often experience a stabbing, burning or aching feeling under their toes or in the ball of their foot. You may also have numbness or tingling in your toes. It will also hurt when you flex your foot.

How to treat Metatarsalgia:

Practice RICE

There are four things you can do to ease the pain: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. You can also do a contrast bath of ice and heat to help reduce the inflammation and take anti-inflammatories to ease the pain.


You shouldn’t run with metatarsalgia and it will probably aggravate your foot. Find another exercise that is more gentle on your foot.

Wear supportive shoes

You might want to try wearing running shoes, Oofos sandals, (Amazon sell them, but they are not cheap) or a boot to reduce the impact on your irritated foot. Metatarsal pads and custom orthotics could help ease the pain.

Call your doctor

If your foot does not improve after ten days of at-home treatment, you should see a doctor.

5. Fat pad syndrome

When the pad becomes irritated, it can lead to a condition called heel bursitis. Your feet contain a layer of fat that protects your heel and helps reduce the impact of running. This layer can become irritated from overuse or from running on hard surfaces in improper shoes. When the layer becomes damaged, it can cause a condition called heel bursitis.

How to treat fat pad syndrome:

Contrast baths

To reduce swelling and pain in your foot, start by soaking it in ice water for 10 minutes. Then alternate between periods of ice and warm water throughout the day.

Wear cushioned shoes

There are a few things that can provide proper support for your feet when you’re running, such as Oofos shoes or a heel cup.

Tape your heel

Kinesiology taping your heel can help improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation.


There are three ways to massage your own foot: manually, with a massage gun, or by booking a massage and having the therapist focus on your foot.

See a Podiatrist (foot specialist)

If your foot is still bothering you after 10 days of at-home treatment, it’s time to see a doctor and get an official diagnosis.

6. Blisters

A blister is a small pocket of fluid that forms on the uppermost layer of skin. It’s usually caused by friction or burning, and although it can be painful, it’s not usually serious. Blisters usually form on the hands, feet, and toes.

When the skin is damaged by friction, a clear fluid called lays on the skin’s outermost layer to protect the bottom layers from infection.

Causes of blisters

There are a few reasons why you might start getting blisters when running. Let’s look at what these are:

  • Friction caused by improper shoe fit
  • Wet environments
  • Hot spots

The most common locations for blisters from running include the heels, arches, in between toes, and on top of the toes.

7. Runner’s Toe

A runner’s toe is a black toenail that results from repetitive activities such as running. Medically, this condition is known as subungual hematoma.

The toenail turns dark purple or black when it repeatedly slams into your shoe or rubs against it.

These microtraumas, caused by the impact of the toe hitting the soft interior of the shoe, cause a small amount of damage each time.

If you have a cut on your foot, it can sometimes lead to increased blood flow to the area. This can cause your foot to swell, which can make your toe rub against your shoe.

The symptoms of a toenail infection include throbbing pain in the toe, discolouration under the nail, and redness or swelling around the toe.

Causes of runner’s toe

The repetitive motions of running can contribute to Runner’s Toe, which is a condition where your toenail repeatedly slams into your shoes or rubs against them. A few things can contribute to it which include:

  • A shoe with a toe box that’s too tight
  • A shoe that’s too big
  • Downhill running which causes the foot to press forward.

8. Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon can become tender, swollen and painful near where it attaches to the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury to the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscles at the rear of the lower leg to the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is most common in runners who have increased the intensity or duration of their runs suddenly. The Achilles tendon can become tender, swollen and painful near where it attaches to the heel bone.

Runners are susceptible to Achilles tendon injuries because of the amount of pushing off we do with each stride.

The faster we run and the more we train going uphill, the more susceptible we are to injury, specifically Achilles tendonitis.

Achilles tendonitis can be a serious condition if left untreated. It is therefore important to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.

The symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include a stiff feeling that goes away as you warm up, pain and swelling near the heel, limited ankle flexibility, redness along the tendon, and cracking or popping sound when you move your ankle.

Causes of Achilles Tendonitis

There are quite a few causes of Achilles Tendonitis. Let’s look at some of the main ones for runners:

  • Tight or fatigued calf muscles which transfer too much of the burn to the Achilles
  • Not stretching the calves properly
  • Increasing mileage too quickly
  • Excessive hill running or speedwork
  • Stiff running shoes

9. Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s Neuroma is caused by a thickening of the nerve that runs between these toes. If you’re experiencing pain in the ball of your foot and don’t think it’s metatarsalgia, it may be Morton’s Neuroma. Morton’s Neuroma is a painful condition that commonly affects the ball of your foot between the third and fourth toes. It’s caused by a thickening of the nerve that runs between these toes.

The pain is caused by a nerve in the area between the toes that gets thicker or enlarged because of scar tissue. This condition is more common in women who wear running shoes that don’t fit well for long periods.

If you are experiencing pain in your foot that feels like a burning or tingling sensation, you may have a condition called metatarsalgia. This condition can be treated by wearing metatarsal pads inside your shoes, which will help take the pressure off of the nerve.

The symptoms are similar to those of metatarsalgia, but they also sometimes include burning or tingling feelings, numbness, and/or acute, stabbing, or shooting pains.

10. Top of Foot Pain

If you are experiencing pain at the top of your foot, it is important to determine whether or not it is caused by a metatarsal stress fracture. Once you have ruled out the possibility of sharp, lasting pain or one that only happens while running, not walking, we can look at other potential causes.

The most common issue with runners is a shoe that is laced too tightly.

  • Feet swell the longer you run or in the heat
  • Try loosening the lacing along the top to give your foot more room
  • Ensure you are wearing thin light socks, again to provide more room
  • Try rubbing a pain relief gel on the area of pain daily for a while to give some relief

If you run too much too soon, it will cause your muscles to become inflamed or irritated.

How to prevent running foot pain

Wear shoes that fit well

To properly take care of your feet when running, you should first wear shoes that fit well and feel comfortable. The shoes you pick should be based on your running dynamics, performance level, and the terrain you’ll be running on.

To ensure the best possible fit, it is important to know your foot type. Be picky when selecting your shoes – make sure they fit both correctly and comfortably.

Consider orthotics or running insoles

Orthotics support the foot by providing a tilt in the heel as well as arch support.

If your pain is severe and lasts more than a week, you should see a foot and ankle specialist. Although over-the-counter orthotics and foot insoles can help, many people don’t buy the right ones. For example, orthotics made of flexible material provide limited support. If your pain is severe and lasts more than a week, you should see a foot and ankle specialist.

If orthotics are made to fit an individual’s feet properly, they can help with many different activities and levels of performance without any issues.

Check your running form

The proper running form will help you avoid injuries, as well as run more efficiently and without as much fatigue or the risk of overuse injuries.

Stretch before and after runs

Stretching is a good way to prevent running injuries. It increases blood flow to the muscles and tendons and makes them more flexible.

It is beneficial to warm up and wake up the muscles before running to avoid overuse injuries such as tendonitis, sprains, and tears.

Use dynamic stretching before a run to help muscles and tendons warm up in a way that static stretching cannot.

Don’t wait to see a specialist

Ignoring the pain, especially in your feet, is never a good idea. If you’re experiencing foot pain, you should see a specialist right away.

The longer you wait to seek treatment for an injury, the more advanced it may become and the more likely it is that you will have to stop running for an extended period.

Physical therapy and orthotics are both effective treatments for common running problems. They may also help prevent future running injuries.


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