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Possible Causes Of Foot Pain After Running

Pain is always uncomfortable, but foot pain is particularly annoying for runners as it impacts your whole workout and recovery. In this article, we’ll help anyone who is dealing with foot pain after running and wants to know why.

We’ll discuss potential causes (as well as treatments) for common foot injuries related to running so that you can figure out which one best describes you and what you need to do to correct to deal with discomfort in your feet.

General Reasons for Foot Pain After Running

If you’re trying to figure out what is causing your foot pain, start here first. If you aren’t dealing with a more particular condition, then you’ll find the reason here.

Increase in Running Mileage

This is the easiest reason to figure out. Have you been running way more than usual? Have you ratcheted up your mileage without giving your body time to adjust? Foot pain can happen after running if you’ve added too much, too soon.

Simply run less next week and don’t go as hard. If that solves the problem, then you need to make sure that you’re following the 10% rule and not increasing your weekly mileage by more than 10% every week.

Overpronation

Another reason might be overpronation, which means that you roll your foot inward as you move. This puts extra pressure on your feet that you wouldn’t have if your feet were in a neutral pronation. In other words, overpronation can cause uncomfortable ankle and arch pain.

The first step of action is to check your shoes. If you’ve been wearing shoes that are worn out, then it might impact your gait so replace those old shoes. If your shoes don’t seem worn, maybe you should try a different type of shoes like stability shoes.

Weak Muscles/Joints

Finally, it could just be that your foot pain stems from having weak muscles and/or joints. This could be due to the fact that you have weak hips, poor core strength, or a hip drop in your gait.

To correct this error, you’ll want to start adding strength and stretching exercises to your routine. Having a strong core will help you become a better runner, so take time to do those planks and work through abs.

More Specific Causes of Foot Pain After Running

If you don’t think that any of the general causes we listed above describes your foot pain, you might have a more specific condition which will require its own specific treatment. Read on to find out which one best describes you.

Plantar Fasciitis

What and Where is It?

Plantar fasciitis is a common injury for runners. It is a stabbing or burning pain in your arch, especially in the morning. The pain might decrease during a run but can reappear within an hour or so after you return from a run.

What is Probably the Cause?

Plantar fasciitis can be caused due to overpronation that isn’t corrected and having tight arches and tight calf muscles. It’s particularly common for flat footed runners since they don’t have as much of an arch.

What is the Treatment?

The way to treat plantar fasciitis is to start stretching those calves. Some examples include a standing calf stretch, which you do by pushing against a wall with one leg bent forward, a towel stretch that pulls your feet toward you, and a single leg balance.

Another way is to roll your feet over a tennis or golf ball to increase blood flow and reduce pain. Chances are that your arches are too tight and need to be stretched out.

If you don’t see improvements after trying both of these activities, you might consider purchasing arch supports or orthotics to give your feet more support when you run.

Bunions

What and Where is It?

Anyone who has had bunions before knows just how uncomfortable they are. They are deformities of the joints at the base of the big toe and can be particularly painful if you don’t have much room in the toe box.

What is Probably the Cause?

Bunions can develop as a result of the shape of your foot, a foot deformity, or from arthritis, but it’s more likely due to wearing tight, narrow shoes. High heels are a likely culprit if you are a female that typically wears them for work.

What is the Treatment?

A simple solution is to make sure that you wear shoes that have a wide toe box. Altra is known for having plenty of space for your feet to splay. New Balance is another good option if you need more room.

You can also try bunion pads so that there isn’t any uncomfortable rubbing when you’re wearing shoes, especially while running. Bunion pads won’t correct your bunions permanently, but they will relieve pressure through an extra layer of cushioning between your toes and your shoe.

Finally, you might want to think about purchasing an orthotic. Because instability in your arches can cause bunions, an orthotic will give your arches more support, meaning that there won’t be as much pressure on your toe joint and therefore on your bunion.

Achilles Tendonitis

What and Where is It?

As the name implies, Achilles tendonitis is pain in the Achilles tendon, the tissue that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. The Achilles tendon is actually the largest tendon in the body and thus more likely to get strained.

What is Probably the Cause?

Achilles tendonitis typically occurs because of overuse, particularly sports-related. If you’ve been adding lots of miles and ignored foot pain for a while, then there’s a good possibility that you might be suffering from Achilles tendonitis.

Your Achilles tendon also wears down over time due to age so degeneration could also be the cause of your Achilles tendonitis. If you’re an older runner or you’ve been running really hard for a while, you might be at a higher risk for Achilles tendonitis.

What is the Treatment?

First, because Achilles tendonitis tends to stem from overuse, you need to get off your feet and rest, ice, stretch, and massage those Achilles tendons. It might be annoying to take off a couple days of running, but it will save you from taking more off in the future.

You might also want to try some heel lift exercises to help take some strain off the tendon and even consider changing your shoes because shoes that are softer at the back of the heel can reduce irritation of the tendon.

If things don’t get better, then you’ll need to seek help from a foot specialist. You may need to have surgery if your Achilles tendon has become ruptured, leading to a partial or total tear of the tendon.

Stress Fracture

What and Where is It?

Stress fractures are small cracks in any foot bone that cause pain and discomfort. They can occur anywhere on the body, but for our purposes, we’re referring to the ones on your feet.

What is Probably the Cause?

Stress fractures are likely caused due to spikes in mileage or too large of a mileage. For example, if it was your routine to run 10 miles a week and you suddenly start running 30 miles, you could experience a stress fracture.

You also might be overstretching yourself. If the farthest you’ve ever run is five miles and then you decide to run 10 miles, it might be too large of a mileage increase for where your body is at right now.

What is the Treatment?

You’ll need to cut back on your mileage and start using the RICE method (rest, ice, compress, and elevate). You need to make sure that you give your stress fracture time to heal; otherwise, it could get worse.

If you don’t experience any improvements after icing and taking some time off, then you will want to talk to a foot specialist. They will probably recommend doing an MRI of your feet to see what the issue is.

Athlete’s Foot

What and Where is It?

If you’ve been running for a while and/or if you’ve been involved in other sports, you might have experienced athlete’s foot before. Or at least know someone who has! It’s a fungal infection that thrives in damp, sweaty places.

If your feet aren’t getting proper ventilation in your shoes, then you might experience this uncomfortable infection. Typically, you’ll also deal with itching between the toes and dry soles.

What is Probably the Cause?

Because athlete’s foot is caused by damp, sweaty places, you’re a more likely candidate for this condition if you typically wear damp socks and/or shoes. If you’ve been wearing cotton socks, you might want to swap them out for a more breathable brand.

What is the Treatment?

Another way to get rid of athlete’s foot is to use antifungal cream to help get rid of the fungal infection as well as to wash your feet every day and dry them completely. If you’ve found yourself running in the rain, make sure that your shoes dry completely before wearing them again.

Ankle Sprain

What and Where is It?

The most common sprains are inversion ankle sprains. It happens when your foot is twisted inward. This stretches and damages the outer ligaments. Obviously, your ankle will hurt, but the pain can be in your foot too.

What is Probably the Cause?

When you roll your foot the wrong way, this can cause an ankle sprain. If you play other sports or like to run on trails, you are a more likely candidate for dealing with an ankle sprain.

What is the Treatment?

How you handle your ankle sprain will depend on how you personally feel. A lot depends on your level of pain tolerance. If putting weight on your foot does not hurt much, then using the ankle will improve recovery. Using an ankle brace or boot is useful.

Extensor Tendonitis

What and Where is It?

This cause is less common than the others than we have listed above. Extensor tendonitis is pain that is across the top of the foot or along the course of a tendon on the top of the foot. In other words, if the top of your foot hurts, it’s extensor tendonitis.

What is Probably the Cause?

Extensor tendonitis can be caused by a variety of reasons. If you are overusing your feet and running a lot, then you might be experiencing extensor tendonitis. It can also be caused by tight shoes (especially along the top) and running uphill a lot because that pushes your toes forward.

What is the Treatment?

You’ll want to take some time off to rest, ice your feet, use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and do some calf stretches and strengthening. Your feet should be back to normal in no time. Just don’t go back to those tight shoes!

Final Thoughts

As a runner, you probably dread the idea of having to deal with foot pain, especially if you don’t know what is causing it. Fortunately, we have you covered. After reading this article, you probably have a good idea of what’s causing your foot pain and how to fix it.

Although it’s a pain to have to deal with, once you figure out what you need to do to treat foot pain, you know what you need to do differently going forward to make your runs as comfortable and pleasant as possible.

The Wired Runner