Can running cause foot problems?
Running is a great way to maintain good health and psychological well-being. However, running can also be a source of injury, placing repetitive stress on the foot’s 26 bones and 30 joints, therefore, overuse and traumatic injuries to the foot are common.
Why do we get foot problems related to running?
Most foot problems related to running are caused by many factors. Some of which you are actually able to control yourself, therefore, preventing injury during training or preparation for a race.
- wearing appropriate running shoes
- not running on hard surfaces regularly
- gradually increasing your training intensity
- avoiding excessive mileage.
Other factors that contribute to overloading the foot are from abnormal lower limb biomechanics.
- tight calfs
- a leg length discrepancy
- over-pronation (flat foot) or;
- insufficient pronation (high arched foot).
These can be addressed with physiotherapy or medical insoles.
What are the common foot conditions related to running?
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition caused by chronic inflammation to the plantar fascia, caused by repetitive small tears that do not completely heal after each injury.
Runners with a stabbing pain in their heel may have plantar fasciitis. The pain can be worse when going up stairs, standing for long periods of time or even after prolonged rest, such as getting out of bed first thing in the morning. Symptoms can range from minor to debilitating.
The majority of cases are treated successfully with simple measures such as:
- stretching exercises
- anti-inflammatory medication
- medical insoles.
If the pain continues further specialist treatment may be required, which includes shockwave therapy or even a steroid injection. Surgery is only considered an option as a last resort.
A Morton’s neuroma is caused when a nerve becomes repetitively trapped in the “ball of the foot” (between the metatarsal heads) during running. Morton’s neuroma generally occurs between the second and third or third and fourth toes.
- activity related pain in the “ball of the foot”,
- numbness in the affected toes
- the feeling of a pebble is trapped in your shoe.
The majority of symptoms settle overtime with appropriate training shoes, activity modification and addressing any abnormal lower biomechanics. A steroid injection can sometimes help. In a small number of cases if the problem persists, surgery is an option.
A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone, that develops gradually when a bone is subjected to repetitive impact. A stress fracture in the foot most frequently occurs in a metatarsal bone, a long bone in the front of the foot connected to the toes.
Symptoms include a deep ache in the foot, which is more noticeable during or after running and can disappear with rest. Symptoms start about a week after an increase in training. Treatment is quite time consuming and involves weeks or even months of rest. You may require a special boot or sandal to off load your foot and a physiotherapy programme. Stress fractures are rarely treated with surgery.
When do I need medical attention with a foot problem related to running?
If a painful foot does not improve with rest within two weeks or if the pain is severe or if you sustained a sudden injury, you should seek medical attention to make a diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.
Joel, a partner at Mercury Foot & Ankle Clinic, is an experienced Consultant and Orthopedic Surgeon with specialist expertise in the foot & ankle.
At Mercury Foot & Ankle Clinic, we help many people who have had injuries either while playing sport or simply during social activities. We are also one of the few clinics that only specialise in injuries to the foot and ankle.
If you would like to know more contact us today.