4 Common Foot Problems For Runners And Treatments

When running, your feet are obviously hitting the road or trail at a much harder rate than usual. It can therefore be common with regular running to to be struck down with certain issues relating to your feet.

It can be quite difficult to understand why they keep occurring and how to treat them effectively so it doesn’t stop you from training or racing.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the common problems that your feet may have to deal with, the causes and symptoms and some possible treatments. 

Plantar Fasciitis 

Let’s start with one of the most common foot problems for runners, Plantar Fasciitis. If you have this, you will often feel some pain and have some inflammation in the bottom of the foot.

The thick band of tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes is the plantar fascia and when it is irritated enough through a lot of strain or stress, it can become inflamed and tender which leads to the soreness you might be feeling. 

When you get plantar fasciitis, it can be incredibly painful to put any weight on it so running and even walking can be too much to bear. 

Common causes of Plantar Fasciitis

If you get plantar fasciitis, the pain is often worse after a long period of rest – so mornings can feel more painful than later on in the day when you’re busy.

  • Age – sorry everyone, as you get older, it is more likely that you may suffer from plantar fasciitis and have the foot pain associated with it. 
  • Your own feet may be the issue – if you have flat feet, high arches or your knees point inward, then these can all contribute to plantar fasciitis. These types of foot problems can cause uneven weight distribution which creates more strain on the plantar fascia. 
  • Tight calf muscles or Achilles heel problems – these can put more pressure on the tissue and cause inflammation of the plantar fascia, causing heel pain as well. 
  • Wearing ill-fitting trainers – wearing trainers that don’t fit properly, are worn out or have done more miles than they should have done. If you don’t regularly switch up your trainers or make sure they are fitting properly, they won’t provide the support you need in the arch of your foot to help prevent the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

There are stretches that you can do to help with relieving the pain, which will be below, but you can also do a few other self-treatments to help you. 

How to treat Plantar Fasciitis

Elevate, ice and rest the foot – keep it iced every 2 hours for 20 minutes at a time if you can. 

Don’t run if possible and avoid walking on hard surfaces for long period of time 

Wearing the right shoes with cushioning around the heel and decent arch support will help, as will swapping out your shoes after 500 miles and making sure they are fitting properly whenever you change your running shoes. 

Physiotherapy can also help if the pain persists for more than two weeks. 

Stretches to help Plantar Fasciitis 

Seated Towel stretch – sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Hook a towel or strap round the arch of your foot and gently pull both ends of the towel while keeping the knee straight. Hold for 30 seconds, release, then repeat around 2 to 3 more times. 

Frozen water bottle rolls – you can do this with a bottle of frozen water or a foam roller. Roll it under your foot as you press down hard on it to stretch out the plantar fascia.

Calf stretches – find a wall and rest your hands on it at shoulder height. Move one foot behind you and push your heel down, keeping your leg straight. You should then bend the front knee and lean forward as you feel the calf muscle stretch out. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat two to three times on each leg. 

Blisters 

Blisters are a runner’s nightmare. They can seemingly come out of nowhere and they can really hurt depending on where they are.

Blisters are often caused by friction or sometimes an allergic reaction to something and they can be extremely painful as you’re waiting for them to heal. 

A blister is a pocket of skin that has formed and they have clear liquid in but can sometimes become a blood blister if you’ve cut yourself and then a blister forms over the top.

They can heal on their own, so you may just want to leave them but there are some things you can do to help alleviate the pain or avoid getting them altogether. 

Common Causes of Blisters

Damp feet or slightly damp sweaty socks, this can cause sweaty feet and the friction can create blisters. 

Tight shoes can cause a blister. We do talk about it a lot but having improper footwear can cause so many issues so make sure you don’t fall into the trap of assuming your trainers fit properly because you got your usual size. 

How to Treat Blisters

If you do get a blister, the best treatment for them is a blister plaster or to put a padded dressing over it. They will often go down by themselves but if they do burst, allow it to drain first before you dress it with a plaster. 

How to prevent Blisters

If you want to try and avoid blisters, then some preventative measures are looking into getting some insoles for your trainers, making sure your feet are clean and dry as are your socks!

Insoles are a great investment, especially if you get custom orthotics, they definitely prevent blisters, so you can run long distances without fear.

Black toenails

Not a foot problem that anyone wants but unfortunately is very common for runners, especially long-distance runners. This can be from excess pressure from ill-fitting trainers, so the nail bed may incur severe bruising resulting in the toenail going black. 

Black toenails are a common issue, but generally quite harmless. Having black toenails is often a cause for celebration amongst groups of runners, as you’ve hit another milestone – the others generally being actual milestones.

You probably won’t need medical advice, unless you have pain in the toenail or they start to become infected or an ingrown toenail. 

Causes of black toenails

  • Running down hill a lot as the front of the shoe can put extra pressure on the toes, especially the big toe, where black toenails are more common. 
  • This common injury can also be caused by running a lot in hot weather, having sweaty socks and sweaty feet can mean your foot moves around more in your shoe, hitting the top of your trainer more and putting too much pressure on the toes. 

Your toenails will generally heal on their own and you shouldn’t need medical or professional advice unless you experience pain or they haven’t gone away within a certain amount of time. 

Achilles Tendonitis 

A pretty painful issue – the Achilles tendon has been damaged, as this tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone it be one of the most painful foot injuries as it affects your foot and your leg.

If you’re a pretty active runner, it can be common as it’s an overuse injury, it can lead to small tears in the tendon as it changes the structure of the Achilles tendon and this can make it weaker and more likely to get worse. 

Causes of Achilles Tendonitis

  • repetitive activity and extra stress which causes inflammation of the Achilles tendon – this can happen if you run a lot or you have a sudden increase in the amount of times you run or you increase your long run quite quickly. 
  • age – as you get older, the achilles tendon will get weaker. This leads to a higher risk of injury and you will be more susceptible to the painful condition.

There are a few different stretches that you can do to ease the pain of achilles tendonitis, we’ve put some below for you but the best thing to do is rest, ice it and maybe see a foot specialist to work on some specialist insoles or shoes. 

Stretches to help with Achilles Tendonitis

Seated towel stretch – sit down on the edge of a chair and put your feet flat on the floor. Wrap a towel around the ball of your foot and pull the towel gently towards you so it stretches your calf muscles. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 2 to 3 times on each foot. 

Calf raises – standing with feet hip-width apart, hold onto a stable surface to support yourself. Slowly begin to rise up on your toes, taking your heels off the ground as high as you can. Hold for around 5 seconds, before slowly lowering your feet back down. Repeat this for 10-12 reps. 

Eccentric heel drops/stair heel drops – stand on the edge of your bottom step or a curb if out running. Your heels should be hanging off the edge slightly, slowly lower your heels down to the floor holding onto something if you need to for stability. Feel the pull in your calves as it stretches the muscle. Repeat for 10-12 reps. 

We hope this article has helped you with some common foot injuries in runners and how to help you if you ever get them. There is so much more we can give guidance on, so head over to our running page for advice on a range of running topics. 

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