You don’t need us to tell you that running has a ton of health benefits, but like all the best things in life (relationships, children, travel), it also causes stress from time to time, particularly on your feet.
“Each category of running can place its own demand on the foot, and more specifically on the arch,” says Loretta Logan, a doctor of podiatry and associate professor at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine & Foot Center of New York. Trail runners, for instance, need to deal with the constantly changing terrain, which can stress the plantar fascia, and thus the arch, Logan says; while running uphill puts more demand on the ankle, which can create tension in the arch; and the impact of sprinting can also strain the plantar fascia.
Related: The midfoot: a user’s guide
Of course, trail running, hill training, and sprinting are all things you should do. But if you’ve noticed a pesky pain in the arch of your foot, you need to address it ASAP. The first step in eliminating your foot-arch pain starts here. Below are the three most common causes of pain in the arch of the foot and what you can do about it.
1. Plantar Fasciitis
If you feel pain when you first step out of bed in the morning, or after long periods of rest, you might have plantar fasciitis, a.k.a. inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick tissue on the bottom of your foot. Even though pain typically presents itself in the heel, you may also feel it in the arch since the tissue runs along the whole foot. “When the plantar fasciitis is put under too much stress (say, from increasing your mileage too much, too soon), you’ll experience pain in the inside part of the heel bone,” Logan says.
Related: Beat that injury: plantar fasciitis
What to do: Mild plantar fasciitis can be treated with time off, some simple exercises like these, an ice bath, and maybe even some new shoes. No dice? “You may need ‘extracorporeal shock wave therapy’ (sound waves that stimulate healing) or surgery,” Logan says. Yeah, not fun. Next time, be sure to increase your mileage and intensity gradually (a solid rule of thumb: don’t increase your mileage by more than 10 percent a week) and stretch your calves before hitting the pavement. Tight calf muscles can put stress on the foot and fascia, Logan says.
2. A Stress Fracture
Repeated stress (like the continuous pounding of running) can cause a tiny break in the bone, also known as a stress fracture. “The metatarsal bones, which make up the front part of the arch, are a common area for stress fractures with the second and third metatarsals being affected most often,” Logan says. “The pain is typically felt at a specific and localized spot, usually on the top portion of the bone.” Sadly, your stress fracture might not be obvious at first, which puts you at risk for making it worse: “The pain may be mild at first, but it can intensify with time if you don’t take care of it.”
Related: 6 stress fracture warning signs
What to do: “Stress fractures take about six to eight weeks to heal and are routinely treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation,” Logan says. Rest is key here: “Ice and NSAID medication may assist in early days, but the fastest pathway to healing is through relative off-loading of the fracture site.” To be clear, that means no running until your doc says so. Some doctors may even prescribe a walking boot to help take some load off the affected area. The stakes are high: A stress fracture can turn into a fracture-fracture (or full break) if you aren’t careful.
And like with plantar fasciitis (and pretty much all running injuries, for that matter), you can prevent future stress fractures by upping your mileage gradually. “If you’re running on uneven or rough terrain you should wear a shoe with a rugged outer sole,” Logan adds. We like these trail running shoes.
“The posterior tibial tendon is the main tendon supporting the arch on the inner side of the foot,” Logan says. “When the tendon is overworked and inflamed, you’ll feel a throbbing or burning pain along your arch during and/or after running.” You might also notice swelling or have pain that extends to your ankle.
Related: essential guide to tendons
What to do: Don’t mess with this one: “This could slowly collapse the arch of the foot if it isn’t treated properly,” Logan says. See your doctor to confirm your diagnosis, but treatment will likely involve stretching the tendon by pointing your foot down, then to the side. (“Like you’re pushing down on a gas pedal, then in towards the break,” Logan says.) Do 3 sets of 10.
- Latest News and Information
- Stop foot pain in its tracks
- Why do my Feet Hurt when I Run?
- Here are some more resources for runners in Austin:
- Fleet Feet West Hartford
Latest News and Information
3 Stretches for Runners to Avoid Foot Pain before a Race
Stop foot pain in its tracks
There are a lot of great local runners that are getting ready for the Calabasas Classic Run. Whether you’re running a 5K or 10k for time or fun, or even walking the course, it’s always important to stretch prior to running.
Most of the stretching performed by runners is placed above the feet like the ankles, knees and hips. While this of course is helpful, skipping foot stretches can not only lead to sidelining injuries in the foot itself, but also “up the chain” in the ankles, knees and hips.
Let’s examine 3 stretches that are focused for runners of all levels to keep your feet and toes healthy and prepare you for a great run.
ARCH PAIN (Tibialis Posterior Tendonitis)
Arch pain is usually located in the inside of the foot between the arch and ankle. This area of pain is associated with the tibialis posterior tendon and more common with runners that excessively pronate (flat feet). As the tibialis posterior tendon/muscle try to support the foot during heel strike and push off, the tendon can experience overuse and become inflamed.
PREVENT ARCH PAIN: Knee to the Wall Stretch
To help prevent arch pain, try performing the knee to wall stretch. In this picture, the runner is actually stretching the front foot by keeping the right heel on the ground, maintaining the position of the arch, and driving the knee towards the wall. Hold for 3 set of 30 seconds each.
HEEL PAIN: (Plantar Fasciitis)
Heel pain is typically called plantar fasciitis and is very common on any runner’s list of injuries. Plantar fasciitis is characterized as pain on the inside of the arch very close to the heel and can be associated with runners who have high arches or flat feet. This condition is usually a degenerative condition of the plantar fascia as it attaches onto the heel.
PREVENT PLANTAR FASCIITS: Standing Plantar Fascia Stretch
To help prevent plantar fasciitis, it is important to warm up your foot and plantar fascia to improve the elasticity that is required for running and activities. While standing, place your big toe against a wall or curb, and lean into the stretch so that you feel the stretch on the bottom of your foot. Hold for 3 set of 30 seconds each.
TOE PAIN (Hallux Rigidus)
Toe pain and stiffness or hallux rigidus is a painful condition that occurs on the top of the big toe joint. The condition is characterized as a degenerative condition where bone spurs grow and prevent the normal extension or toe up of the big toe. Having full and painless big toe extension is important when pushing off and going up hills. Most of you don’t have true hallux ridigus and we want to keep it that way.
PREVENT TOE PAIN: Kneeling Toe Stretch
To prevent hallux rigidus, it is important to maintain the normal extension of the big toe as much as possible, The purpose of this stretch is to improve the joint mobility of the big toe by stretching the joint capsule or ligament. Try this stretch while kneeling and make sure your big toe is in an extended position. Sit back on your heels for 3 sets of 30 second holds.
The stretching for your foot should be done 1-2 times per week for prevention and daily if you have arch, heel or toe pain either during, before or after a run.
When you’re at the race, stop by the EQUINOX tent to do some important stretches and warm-ups while having a lot of fun. The trainers there are able to help runners prepare for their race.
Have a great race and if you get any strains or pains in your feet, make sure to consult with a doctor of physical therapy for help.
Why do my Feet Hurt when I Run?
Austin, Texas is full of runners and therefore it is full of people with running injuries. That may sound like a joke but it is an unfortunate truth, and a common area of pain and injury for many runners is the foot. It takes the biggest impact of any body part for most runners (depending on your running form), so it’s no wonder that foot pain is so common among runners.
Though self-treatment has it’s limitations and isn’t likely to fully resolve a stubborn case of runner’s foot pain, one of our therapists recorded the video below to demonstrate some self-massage and mobilization techniques to help keep foot pain at bay as you ramp up your mileage
If you’re already in pain, click here to request a free consultation where you’ll learn about a complete solution to your running injury. **And if your foot pain is specifically at the heel or arch, I highly suggest you also see our comprehensive guide to the causes and solutions of heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
If you are dealing with any foot pain/injury and would like to know how we can help, call or text us at (512) 693-8849.
If it’s after hours and you’d like to schedule a call with one of our expert physical therapists in Austin, , or you can also via our contact page.
Video Transcription :
Hey guys! Ben from Carter PT here again.
Running season started and many runners are experiencing discomfort when they run. One of the areas that I get a lot of tightness around is my feet. The feet take such a pounding. So it’s important to keep them mobile, loose, and fresh. What I’ll give you guys are some self treatment techniques for your own feet as those miles starts to climb.
Here are my feet. Look at that beautiful white pale foot. I like to work on some self treatment here. I’ll demonstrate what I like to do with my own feet. I self massage it like that and I like to come across here and work that tissue. You could really dig into that foot right there. You can see some callouses from previous runs. I’ve really been working along the arch, which gets really tight and into the heel right there.
Might even get some pops or clicks sometimes. I like to pop my toes, loosen them up, and tug on them a bit.his is a really helpful self-treatment that I like to do for myself and I wiggle my toes as I do it.
So if you’re a runner and you’re struggling with some tightness in your feet, it’s a great self treatment technique to loosen them up. If you have any questions go to www.CarterPT.com. Thanks and take care.
Here are some more resources for runners in Austin:
Enjoy Trail Running? (includes descriptions of the runs, difficulty levels, and map locations)
Click here to learn some really important exercises for runners and how to prevent one of the most common causes of running injury
If you know you want to learn some of the most important running-injury prevention exercises, .
If you’re already dealing with a running injury in Austin, or the orange buttons above to request a completely free consultation with a running-expert physical therapist. We can quickly figure out what’s causing your pain and limiting your mileage without it costing you a dime.
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Ouch! – Should I keep running?
We’ve all been there…..something just doesn’t feel right on your run. Maybe it’s a twinge of the hamstring, an ache in the knee, or a dull pain in your shin. Do you keep running? Should you walk? When will you be able to run again? Should you use ice after your run? What about a hot pack? Maybe both? These are some common questions that I hear when someone is seeking advice about a running injury.
When someone tells me they felt pain on their run, my question back to them is often, “did you finish your run?” Their answer is almost always, “well….yes.” I chuckle to myself sometimes because of the mentality that runners have. You are already a couple of miles from your house, you might as well finish the run then deal with whatever injury you have later. There is a fine line between pushing too far through aches and pains and not pushing hard enough. If we stopped running whenever we felt a little something, the truth is, most of wouldn’t be doing much running at all! On the other hand, pushing through some injuries can have detrimental outcomes and turn those running shoes into cross training shoes pretty quickly!
There are many different injuries that range from mild to severe and within those injuries, there are even different phases (acute, sub-acute, and chronic). Each injury is treated a little differently and each phase of healing requires different types of treatments. While it is impossible to give specific instructions without knowing the diagnosis of the injury, I am going to provide you with some general guidelines on what to do when you feel something that’s not right on a run.
Was there a specific mechanism of injury? Did you step the wrong way off a curb and roll your ankle? Did you push the pace and feel your hamstring pop? Typically, if there is a sudden, specific event that occurred to cause your pain, that’s not good and you should stop running.
Immediately after an injury occurs, it is in what is called the acute phase of injury. During this time, there are signs of inflammation that will be present including redness, swelling, pain, heat, and loss of function. Applying ice to the injured area is a good thing to do during the acute phase. Generally, 20 minutes of ice on followed by 1 hour off is a good rule of thumb to allow sufficient cooling of the injured tissue followed by return to normal temperature. There is a common misconception that it is only necessary to apply ice in the 48 hours after an injury occurs. That is not necessarily true. Ice can and should be used whenever there are signs of inflammation present. So if you have some redness, swelling and pain present for greater than 48 hours after the onset of injury, go ahead and ice it! Switching to a hot pack too soon can cause ill effects, while sticking with ice is usually a safe bet.
It’s fairly easy to tell when an injury occurs if there a specific mechanism, but how about those aches and pains that kind of sneak up on you? These are the most common that I see in the adult running population. In the middle of a seemingly good run, you start to notice a pain. You can keep running, even at a pretty decent pace. Maybe you even finish your long 20 mile training run, but there’s still that nagging pain. Sometimes it hurts after your run, sometimes it doesn’t. Should you keep running?
Here’s where it gets tricky. Remember, these are general guidelines to follow. Injuries that don’t get better after some activity modification and at home remedies need to be checked out by a medical professional. I like to use a self-report pain scale to help people judge what they can and can’t push through. On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the most pain), I advise that the pain level stay at a 4 or lower.
Often, runners will experience pain or tightness when they first start a run, but once they run for a little while, they actually feel better. That’s a good thing and it’s ok to keep running. If there is a low level of pain at the beginning and it remains the same throughout the run and even after the run; I usually say, if you must run, then go ahead and continue. Pain levels that increase to over a level 4 throughout the run are not good and running should be stopped.
In the case of any injury, whether you are running through it or not, there are things that you can be doing to help yourself heal. A few key areas to consider when dealing with injury are ice/heat, tissue flexibility, tissue extensibility, support, and strength.
Ice / Heat – Depending on your current level of pain and inflammation, application of ice or heat to the injured area can be beneficial. If there is swelling, redness, heat and pain present, applying a cold pack can help to reduce the inflammation. In a chronic state of injury, where there is a decreased blood flow to the injured area, using a hot pack will help to increase blood flow, bringing helpful nutrients to the area and making the damaged tissue more receptive to stretching.
Tissue Flexibility – Tissue flexibility refers to the ability of a muscle or tendon to lengthen to allow normal motion of a joint. Stretching the affected body part, as well as surrounding muscles can help to restore normal tissue length as well as joint range of motion. Self-stretching, as well as devices such as the Strassburg Sock, ProStretch, or stretch out strap can be used to increase tissue flexibility.
Tissue Extensibility – Tissue extensibility is different than tissue flexibility, as it refers to the ability of individual muscle and collagen fibers to glide more efficiently over one another. Increasing tissue extensibility can allow for greater tissue flexibility. Keeping the muscles and surrounding fascia will increase the health and function of the tissue; allowing it to be stronger and more flexible. Self-massage tools such as a foam roller, Stick, Foot Rubz, or Trigger Point ball can be beneficial in increasing tissue extensibility.
Support – Providing support to an injured area through compression or strain reduction can help to keep you running while you are working to correct the underlying cause of the problem. Sometimes just a little extra support is all you need. Products such as inserts, compression socks, or braces / straps can help to support an injured area.
Strength: Check out the Sports Medicine Corner of our website for ideas on injury prevention exercises.
In future editions of the Sports Medicine Corner, I will be elaborating on the different phases of injury (sub-acute and chronic) and different products that you can use to help yourself during each phase. In the meantime, check out our Injury Tool Chart or ask a Fleet Feet staffer to explain it to you the next time you are in the store.
Remember, when in doubt, ice. If running makes the pain get better or remain the same (up to a level 4), proceed with caution. Increases in pain with running to greater than a level 4, stop and seek medical care.