Runner’s Feet : 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 : 6 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

What is it & Causes:

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.

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.

Injinji Run Lightweight No-Show (Small, Aquaberry)

Treatment for Blisters:

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

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.

I like the Injinji Run socks as they keep my toes separate and blisters do not form. They are relatively inexpensive.  

Injinji Run 2.0 Lightweight No Show Toe Socks
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  • Maximize your comfort by minimizing bulk moisture build up and friction with the RUN Lightweight socks.
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  • The foot will remain cool with the light and breathable mesh top that maximizes ventilation.
  • The no-show length rests below the ankle and features a heel tab to protect against chafing and keep the sock from sliding into the shoe.

2. Plantar Fasciitis

What is it & Causes:

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that affects the foot and is characterized by pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes.

Plantar fasciitis is a condition that often occurs as a result of overuse or excessive strain on the plantar fascia due to activities such as running, jumping or prolonged standing. Symptoms include sharp heel pain when standing up after sitting for long periods, increased pain after exercise, swelling in the arch of the foot, and difficulty flexing your feet.

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 foot.

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that affects the foot and is characterized by pain and inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes.

Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis:

As far as treatment goes, the most effective for it is a 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 and relieve pain. Generally, most cases of plantar fascia will solve themselves following the old adage of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

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3. Stress Fractures

What is it & Causes:

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.

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.

Injinji Run Lightweight No-Show (Small, Aquaberry)

Treatment for Stress Fractures:

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.

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.

4.Runner's Toe

What is it & Causes:

Runner's toe is a common term for black toenail, which is a toenail discoloration caused by repetitive trauma to the toes.

This condition can occur when long-distance runners cause too much friction between their toes and the inside of their running shoes.

In rare cases, runner’s toe may also be caused by an underlying fungal infection or an injury to the toe.

Runner's toe is a common term for black toenai

Symptoms of Runner's Toe:

The most common symptom associated with runner’s toe is a discoloration of the toenail(s) which can range from black, purple, green and even yellow.

In addition, some individuals may experience pain and swelling in the affected area as well as thickening or lifting of the nail plate.

Treatment for Runner's Toe:

Runner’s toe can often be treated at home with simple lifestyle changes such as making sure your running shoes fit properly, wearing properly fitting socks and reducing the amount of time spent on high-impact activities.

Additionally, using antifungal medications may help to treat this condition if it is caused by a fungal infection. If the pain or discoloration persists, it is important to see a doctor for further evaluation and treatment.

5. Athlete's Foot

What is it & Causes:

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that affects the skin of the feet, usually between the toes.

It is caused by direct contact with a fungus in warm, moist environments such as public showers and locker rooms. The infection can also be spread from person to person through direct contact or shared items such as towels and shoes.

The most common symptom of athlete’s foot is itching and burning on the affected area.

Other symptoms may include redness, scaling and flaking of the skin, blisters, cracked or peeling skin, odor and discoloration of the nails.

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Lotrimin AF Athlete's Foot Powder Spray, Miconazole Nitrate 2%, Clinically Proven Effective Antifungal Treatment of Most AF, Jock Itch and Ringworm, 4.6 Ounces (133 Grams) Spray Can (Pack of 3)
  • PROVIDES RELIEF: Relieve the itching, burning, cracking, and scaling of skin on feet and toes with Lotrimin AF antifungal foot powder spray.
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Treatment for Athlete's Foot:

Treating athlete’s foot involves keeping the affected area clean and dry, using antifungal creams or powders, avoiding tight-fitting or narrow shoes and wearing shower sandals in public restrooms.

 If the infection persists or spreads to other areas of the body, it is important to see a doctor for further evaluation and treatment. There are a number of over-the-counter treatments that can help clear up the infection.

However, if the fungus doesn't go away after a few weeks, it's important to see a doctor, as it could be a sign of a more serious condition.

6. Achilles Tendonitis

What is it & Causes:

Achilles tendonitis is a condition that results from the overuse of the Achilles tendon, the large band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.

The condition is most common in runners, but can also affect other athletes who place excessive stress on their lower legs.  

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include tight calf muscles, pain and stiffness in the back of the leg, often aggravated by exercise or prolonged periods of standing.

Treatment for Achilles Tendonitis:

Treatment typically involves a combination of rest, Ice, and physical therapy. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the damaged tissue. Achilles tendonitis can be a frustrating condition, but with proper treatment, most patients are able to return to their previous level of activity.

Runner’s Feet - Conclusion

Running 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 or experience foot pain.

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 runner's feet problems you may be having. 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 2023-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API