Running has great cardiovascular benefits, is accessible for most and inexpensive. In addition, running helps build muscle and strengthen your bones. Some of the team at Pod Fit Adelaide are distance runners. In this article, we share with you how to prevent and treat sore feet from running.
Your feet are complex structures, with 26 bones and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments in each. These work together to provide support, stability, and mobility around the foot and ankle joints. Feet are the first point of contact with the ground, which can lead to pain in some runners.
Distance running causes high rates of running injuries, variously estimated to be between 30% and 75% per year. The causes are multifactorial and are often thought to include biomechanical abnormalities, previous injury, sex, and body mass index 1
A prospective cohort study of 300 runners followed for two years showed that 73 percent of women and 62 percent of men sustained an injury, with 56 percent of the injured runners sustaining more than one injury during the study period.
Types Of Foot Pain Experienced By Runners
Heel Pain After Running: Plantar Fasciitis
This is characterized by pain in the heel or pain in the foot arch when running. It may also be felt first thing in the morning and after long periods of sitting or rest.
Plantar fasciitis can be pain, inflammation, or degeneration of the fascia that connects your toes to your heel bone through the bottom of your foot. This fascia absorbs shock and also supports the arch of your foot as you run. Long distance running and flat feet may contribute to this condition, especially if an individual has poor running technique.
Heel pain is very common in runners, however, symptoms can be improved through changing running shoes, use of an orthotic, shockwave therapy, taping, stretching, release work, and rest.
Toe Pain During or After Running: Hallux Rigidus
The big toe plays an important role when walking and running. Called the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, it connects the big toe to the foot. When it bends it allows the foot to roll forward and push off the ground, which propels you forward.
Hallux rigidus means “stiff big toe”, and is a form of degenerative arthritis. In runners this pain is usually due to overuse injuries, however, for some, there may be underlying osteoarthritis or inflammatory disease contributing.
Sharp Foot Pain From Running: Stress Fracture
A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone caused by overuse and repetitive activities like running. They tend to start off with slow-building pain that then becomes sharp all of a sudden.
Stress fractures in your foot can be caused by a variety of factors including running on hard surfaces or a sudden increase in distance or frequency of running. They are most often found in the metatarsal bones in the middle of the foot, however can also occur in the heel, ankle, and navicular bones.
Stress fractures require taking around 4-6 weeks off running to heal it properly, however the use of an anti-gravity treadmill can be used to help an individual run with reduced body weight and stress through the affected bone.
Foot Pain Prevention
Running can be hard on your feet. Whether it’s the pounding of the pavement or just the natural movement of your body, running can take a toll on the soft tissues of your feet. If you’re suffering from sore feet, there are several things you can do to help relieve the pain and keep the discomfort in check.
Strength Training For Your Feet
To be as efficient as possible when we are walking or running our feet need to be able to access pronation, supination, dorsiflexion and plantarflexion in order to absorb load as we take a step and then propel out and forwards into the next step.
Hasimoto and Sakuraba (2014) found that running speed increased in those that went through a simple foot strengthening routine.
Exercises that are beneficial for increasing the strength in your feet are calf raises, which help strengthen the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles. This can help prevent injuries such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles pain, and calf injury.
Wearing The Appropriate Running Shoe
According to the latest research, the best predictor for a good running shoe is ‘comfort’. You should feel supported through the instep, or the top part of the arch, and feel as if the shoe disappears from the ball of the foot to the toe.
These days we also place a lot of emphasis on how the motion of the foot looks in the shoe while running. Options for running shoes include those with more arch support and other neutral shoes with more cushioning. Your best bet is to go to a specialty running shoe store and get fitted properly to ensure you get the right shoe for your foot type.
Where your foot lands as you run can make all the difference. Heel strikers tend to have a higher injury risk which can lead to conditions such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles pain and stress fractures due to less shock absorption. Forefoot runners naturally land softer as the calf helps cushion the landing, which can help reduce stress on the knee.
Retraining your running gait to land differently can be very difficult, however, this doesn’t mean you are destined for injury. When Harvard researchers studied a group of heel-striking recreational female runners they found that those who landed more softly had experienced fewer injuries. Next time you run, try adjusting your form to make your foot strikes sound softer and see if this feels better on your feet and joints.
A dynamic warm up before you run will help blood flow to your muscles and prepare you to move more efficiently. This warm-up can include lunges, high knees, butt kicks, and calf raises. You may also benefit from massaging your feet or rolling a ball through your arches after running to help alleviate pain and prevent foot injuries. If using a ball, roll it slowly and firmly through your arch. If you find a tender area, push down on that spot for 10 seconds to help reduce tension.
Remedies For Sore Feet
Treating your sore feet can stop the pain from getting worse and forcing you to take time off running. Treatments can include icing the feet, massaging through sore areas, wearing a heel lift in your shoes to take pressure off the heel and Achilles, and getting insoles or orthotics to help support the feet while running. As podiatrists, we are specially trained in foot pain diagnosis and treating your foot and ankle pain after running.
Take A Rest Day
The muscles and bones in your feet need rest, much like other parts of your body. This can be achieved by not running for two consecutive days in a row. If you’re training for a race, be sure to include at least one recovery day. This also gives your running shoes time to recover, as the foam in the soles compresses during each run and slowly rebounds to normal height after you finish. The time this takes differs depending on how fast you run and how much you weigh, but the more time between runs the more the foam rebounds. If you plan on running back-to-back days, you may benefit from alternating running shoes.
Getting New Running Shoes Every 700km
Purchasing new running shoes can be a great way to prevent and alleviate foot pain. Your rate of impact begins to increase after roughly 700km of running as the shoe starts to wear out. This is due to the cushion breaking down, which leads to decreased shock absorption through the midsole. The goal is to replace your running shoes before your feet start to get sore. A good way to see if your shoe needs replacing is to look at the tread. If it’s worn down then it’s time for a new pair of shoes.
Runners who take part in marathons or other long-distance running events are especially susceptible to foot problems. If you’re running distances and you’re not treating your feet, you’re going to get into trouble.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it ok to run if I have foot pain?
On a pain scale of 10, pain in the range of 1 to 3 is considered mild and is ok to run through. However, if the pain is increasing we recommend getting your feet assessed so you can run pain-free.
Should my feet hurt after running?
A general aching feeling in both feet can be common, although not normal, after long runs, especially if they were on a hard surface. If pain increases or hangs around after you have stopped running then you should get your feet assessed.
How long do I have to wait before running after I feel pain?
We recommend reducing pain as much as possible before you run again. This can be achieved by a rest day.
What kind of footwear helps prevent sore feet?
Running specific shoes help prevent sore feet. You can find these at specialty running stores.
- scholar.harvard.edu. 2021. No page title. [ONLINE] Available at: https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/dlieberman/files/2012b.pdf. [Accessed 25 July 2021].
- bjsm.bmj.com. 2021. No page title. [ONLINE] Available at: https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/41/8/469. [Accessed 25 July 2021].