Three Common Types of Foot Pain in Runners (and how to prevent them)

With a beautiful summer in full swing, runners of all types are hitting the trails. As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and foot and ankle conditions, I’d like to share a few tips that can help runners reach their full potential by understanding the basics when it comes to causes, symptoms and prevention of running-related foot and ankle injuries.

To keep you healthy and active as a runner, here are three common running-induced conditions, and tips on how to prevent further foot pain.

Plantar Fasciitis

young athletic girl running in the morningRunning along the bottom of your foot, from your heel to your toe, is a thick band of tissue known as the plantar fascia. Plantar Fasciitis is the inflammation of this tissue, resulting in heel pain that can eventually become chronic if left untreated. Runners are more prone to this type of injury due to more frequent and forceful stress on their feet.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis

  • Constant, stabbing pain in or around your heel
  • Pain that gets worse after the first few steps in the morning or shortly after exercise

Preventing Plantar Fasciitis

  • Strengthen your lower leg muscles
  • Stretch the arch of your foot
  • Add arch-support inserts to your shoes
  • Consider wearing night splints

Stress Fracture

athletic woman ready to push off at the start of a raceA stress fracture is a broken bone caused by too much pressure or strain from repetition or overuse during certain activities. In many cases, the fracture is triggered by a sudden change in the frequency or intensity of your exercise or lifestyle. While a stress fracture can happen anywhere in the foot, runners often fracture the tiny bones across the top. Constant exertion and stress from pushing off at the start of a race or run is a common cause of stress fractures in the feet for runners.

Symptoms of a Stress Fracture in your Foot

  • Pain in the foot or ankle that occurs during physical activity but lessens in severity when at rest
  • Noticeable bruising, tenderness or swelling at the source

Preventing Stress Fractures in your Foot

  • Eat foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D to strengthen bones
  • Start slow when training for a new sport or starting a new activity
  • Wear comfortable running shoes

Extensor Tendonitis

group of athletic people running uphillThe extensor tendons in your feet run from the front of the leg to your toes. Excessive use and strain on those tendons—from running uphill, for example—can cause inflammation which leads to pain and discomfort. Extensor tendonitis can also be caused by running in shoes that are too tight, especially around the top near the shoestrings.

Symptoms of Extensor Tendonitis

  • Pain in the top of your foot (usually in the middle) that worsens with physical activity
  • Pain worsens when wearing ill-fitting shoes

Preventing Extensor Tendonitis

  • Wear comfortable running shoes
  • Stretch your legs and feet often

More information about how to prevent running injuries, including those that affect the leg and knee, is available on our website. If you suffer from foot pain and would like to discuss surgical and nonsurgical treatment options, contact our office to schedule a consultation.

About the Author:

James P. Halloran, M.D., orthopedic surgeon, specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of foot, ankle and knee conditions.James Halloran, M.D. is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon whose primary clinical interest focuses on diagnosis and treatment of conditions involving the knee, ankle, and foot. Dr. Halloran completed fellowship training in both sports medicine and foot/ankle surgery. 

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The medical information contained in the Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics website is provided to increase your knowledge and understanding of orthopedic conditions. This information should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific medical or surgical treatment plan. As each patient may have specific symptoms or associated problems, the treatment regimen for a specific patient may not be the proper treatment for another.

Gaining knowledge and understanding of a particular problem or condition is the first step in any medical treatment plan. I believe the information presented on our website will be helpful for those individuals experiencing ankle pain, or other related problems. However, this information is not intended to replace the advice of your family physician. You are encouraged to consult with your physician to discuss any course of treatment presented or suggested.