Runners’ feet do a lot of work. Here how to best take care of yours so foot injuries don’t slow you down.
With summer around the corner, longer days mean one thing for runners: more daylight hours during which to hit the pavement. While runners often deal with minor aches and pains, it’s important to recognize when you can push yourself harder and when you should take it easy in order to avoid an injury.
Runners’ feet in particular endure the brunt of consistent activity. To help you stay on top of your game, here are some of the causes and symptoms of common foot injuries — and how you can prevent them.
1. PLANTAR FASCIITIS
The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the base of the toes. It stretches to support the arch of the foot and can be strained under pressure. Runners, who repetitively impact the foot, often strain the plantar fascia. This can cause tiny tears to form, leaving the tissue irritated and inflamed. The first sign of this condition is pain in the heel. If the pain persists for more than two days, it is recommended that you see a podiatrist who can diagnose the condition with a physical examination and X-ray imaging.
To avoid plantar fasciitis, be sure to treat the affected area with anti-inflammatories and physical therapy at the first signs of pain. If the tissue becomes more seriously damaged, surgery may be necessary in order to remove dead tissue.
2. MORTON’S NEUROMA
Morton’s Neuroma occurs when the ball of the foot experiences nerve compression. Neuromas are parts of nerves that are thickened by stress, resulting in discomfort and pain. People with flat feet, bunions, or other foot conditions are at a higher risk of this injury. Symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma include pain in the ball of the foot, a tingling or numbness in the toes, a burning sensation inside the foot or the toes, and a feeling similar to stepping on a marble at the ball of the foot.
To prevent this condition, be sure to use proper footwear that does not pinch the toes or strain the ball of the foot. If caught early, Morton’s Neuroma can be treated with custom foot orthotics that support the arch, along with anti-inflammatories and corticosteroid injections. If these methods do not alleviate pain, surgery may be necessary to remove the enlarged portion of the nerve.
3. ACHILLES TENDONITIS
Achilles tendonitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which is activated when flexing the foot and ankle. It is often caused by overuse resulting from strenuous running, jumping, or lunging. If the Achilles tendon becomes irritated, symptoms can include a burning pain at the back of the foot, stiffness, a limited range of motion in the foot, persistent swelling, and bone spurs.
The simplest way to prevent Achilles tendonitis is to avoid wearing tight shoes. If you experience foot swelling it is recommended that you stay off your feet and participate in physical therapy until the swelling goes down. More severe cases of Achilles tendonitis may require surgery in order to mend tears and remove dead tissue.
4. STRESS FRACTURES
Stress fractures involve severe bruising or small cracks in the bone. The bones of the foot and lower leg are especially vulnerable to stress fractures, as they bear the weight of the body and absorb repetitive forces during walking, running, or jumping. While doctors can sometimes identify stress fractures from a physical exam, imaging exams such as X-rays, bone scans, and MRIs are often needed to provide an accurate diagnosis.
These fractures commonly occur when people try new exercises or suddenly ramp up the intensity of their workouts. That’s why it’s important for runners to increase the distance and pace of their runs gradually over time. If you experience sudden, severe pain in the bone of the foot, an orthopedic specialist can direct you to a variety of treatments — such as casting or the use of traction tapes — that provide additional support.
If you’re experiencing foot pain, contact an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible to receive a formal diagnosis and treatment plan. At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, we have decades of experience treating a variety of running injuries. Our dedicated staff is there for you every step of the way, and we’ll make sure you’re back on your feet as soon as possible!