Runner’s Feet : 3 Common Problems, Treatment & Prevention

Feet are the first line of defense between your body and the ground at pretty much all times. When you run, the force you put into the ground can be multiplied by up to 8-10x your body weight.

That is a lot of force to put through your feet and legs.

As is the case with much of the body, the foot is a complex network of bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles that all function together to work properly. All it takes is one bit to tighten up and it can negatively impact the entire kinetic chain throughout the body.

Needless to say, it’s important to care for your feet properly.

Runner’s Feet : 3 Common Problems, Treatment & Prevention

Running puts extra stress on the foot's 26 bones and 30 joints, so it is not unusual for overuse and traumatic injuries to occur. 

That being said, these injuries can range from being minor blister from rubbing to chronic stress fractures from the impact force.

We will go over some of the most common injuries that affect runners and provide ways to care for and prevent them. Most of which I have endured so I have first-person experience with the majority of these. 

Feet are the first line of defense between your body and the ground at pretty much all times. When you run, the force you put into the ground can be multiplied by up to 8-10x your body weight.

1. Blisters

These may seem like small issues at first, and if cared for properly they usually are. However, if left untreated then blisters can cause infections or alter biomechanics.

A blister is a small pocket of fluid that forms as a result of friction or rubbing between your skin and the shoes you are wearing, so it’s imperative to wear proper fitting shoes and socks to decrease rubbing.

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Keeping your feet dry is very important - excessive moisture or perspiration can also trigger these blisters. This is common among athletes, and particularly among runners. 

Tiny blisters form as a result of sweat clogging the pores in the feet. Once again, if your socks are not wicking away moisture from your feet, then your chances of getting blister increases.

If you often have blisters on your toes, then you should consider using toe socks to decrease rubbing between your toes and shoes.

You might be tempted to pick at or burst a blister because it is so uncomfortable, but open blisters can get infected so its best to leave them be.

Covering your blister with an adhesive bandage like moleskin can help protect your blister and quicken the healing time.

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If you leave a blister alone, it may eventually heal by hardening and/or disappear. But until that happens, the bubble will probably be uncomfortable depending on its size.

Safely draining a blister can be beneficial for pain relief if done properly, but just make sure to follow the correct steps listed below:

  1. Wipe a needle or straight pin with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Gently puncture the edge of the blister.
  3. Press the fluid in the blister toward the hole so it can drain out.
  4. Clean and protect this area so it heals properly.

In the end, blisters are very common, but it is pretty easy to prevent them so with proper socks, shoes, and skincare. If you do end up getting a blister make sure to protect it so it does not become a more serious issue and it should heal pretty quickly.

Blisters can also lead to black toenails. Learn about how black toenails are formed and what they are here

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2. Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is well known in the running community because of how common it is amongst athletes. Runners who experience a stabbing heel or foot pain may have plantar fasciitis.

The pain may be worse when going up stairs, or standing for a long time because it increases tension on the tendon. It may also hurt after a prolonged rest period, like getting out of bed in the morning or getting up from your desk at work.

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Further symptoms include pain after physical activity, heel pain that is tender to the touch, pain while flexing the foot, or pretty much anything else that will put tension pressure through your plantar facia.

As far as treatment goes, the most effective combination would be rest and treating the area with ice, elevation, soft stretching and massages with some foot rollers, and compression material.

However, most runners do not want to stop running, so decreasing activity loads, changing into new shoes, and getting some supportive insoles can help decrease pain while still at least training a little bit.

Some doctors also recommend taking some over the counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen to help decrease inflammation in the afflicted area. Generally, most cases will solve themselves following the old adage of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

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3. Stress Fractures

A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone that occurs from gradual and repetitive stress put on a bone without time to heal.

Those new to running are definitely susceptible to getting a stress fracture commonly in their shins or feet because that is often where most of the impact force can take place.

In the feet, stress fractures occur most frequently in a metatarsal bone, which is one of the long bones that join the toes. At first, it may just feel sore, but over time the pain can become more pronounced, and the foot can swell up or bruise if left unchecked.

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Putting any pressure or weight on the foot can cause pain, and so will pressing down directly on the affected area. The pain will definitely be more noticeable during and after weight-bearing activity, but it will be less noticeable after a long period of rest time, like sleeping or sitting at a desk at work.

Because they are so small, it is often hard to see a stress fracture on a standard X-ray. A definitive diagnosis will often require an MRI or bone scan, but to be honest you will probably not need to go this far because a doctor can pretty much tell by examining the area manually.

Once you have a stress fracture generally all you can do to heal is take time off and rest. It is common for recovery to take around 5 to 6 weeks, but it can take even longer as cases vary for each individual.

To enhance the rate of healing its best to decrease the amount of pressure and stress on the foot as much as possible, and a doctor may even put you in a boot to help ease the tension.

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The best way to prevent a stress fracture or any foot injury from occurring is to care for your feet, train intelligently, and take recovery seriously by optimizing your quality of sleep and nutrition.

It probably goes without saying, but if you have pain in your foot that does not get better with rest within two or three weeks, or if the pain is intense, then it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor to see what the best course of action is.

Runner’s Feet - Conclusion

Injuries are part of the sport of running and it is almost uncommon for a runner to go for many years without at least a minor foot injury.

The importance of taking care of your feet cannot be overstated, as they absorb so much impact and force over the course of a run.

I hope this was able to lend you some insight on some common problems you may be having with your feet due to running. Patience is key and the body usually knows what to do to heal itself and recover.

In the end, it’s often best to look at an injury as a way to let all the training sink in so you can come back stronger than ever.

Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Me.

Last update on 2022-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API