Common Foot Injuries & Cures

You probably take them for granted, but a healthy pair of feet are a runner's best friend. After all, your feet hit the ground 1,500 times per mile. With each stride, they absorb a force several times your body weight. They land, roll forward and push off. Again and again and again. Fortunately, the foot's 26 bones, 33 joints and 112 ligaments are perfectly designed for running. Treat your feet well, and they'll give you many miles of pain-free workouts and excitement-filled races.

Of course, feet can and do get injured. The pounding of the road, the friction of ill-fitting shoes, the germs in a locker room - these and many other problems can lead to foot injury or disease. So you can never afford to take your feet for granted. To help you protect your feet, here are the 14 most common foot ailments, including how to treat each injury, how to prevent a recurrence and how to get back on the road. Follow this advice, and you can keep your feet running healthy for many miles to come.

Injuries menu:
Achilles tendinitis
Ankle sprain  
Athlete's foot  
Black toenails  
Calcaneal bumps
Ingrown toenails
Plantar fasciitis
Stress fractures


Achilles tendinitis
- The Achilles tendon runs down the back of the leg and connects to the calf muscle. It can become inflamed from overuse and inflexibility. Younger runners tend to strain the Achilles just above the heel, but as runners age, tendinitis usually occurs higher, where the Achilles connects to the calf muscle. An inflammed Achilles feels tender and stiff.

Causes - Running tends to tighten the calf muscle. When the muscle becomes too tight, it doesn't allow for the normal biomechanics of running, and the Achilles tendon becomes strained and inflamed. Running steep hills or increasing your weekly mileage too quickly can lead to inflammation of the tendon. If you continue to run despite the pain, the inflammation can turn into partial tears of the tendon. Eventually, part of the tendon will die, and the weakened remaining tendon can easily rupture.

Treatment - Take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium two or three times a day. Massage the Achilles with ice and take a few days off. In some cases, a quarter-inch to half-inch heel lift will alleviate the stress on the tendon. If you still have pain after a couple of weeks, you should see a sports-oriented physical therapist or podiatrist.

Prevention - Since tight calf muscles and a tight Achilles usually lead to Achilles tendinitis, stretching the calf and tendon are imperative. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it's best to stretch your tendon after you run, not before. That way, your tendon is fully warmed up and receptive to a slow, gradual stretch. Never stretch to the point of pain. Also, consider switching to a firmer, motion-control shoe to limit rearfoot motion and overpronation, and make certain that there isn't any pressure or rubbing from your shoes on the Achilles tendon. Eliminate or cut back on hill training.

Can you run with it? - You do not want to run through Achilles tendinitis. Even a seemingly mild Achilles strain can turn into a partial or complete rupture, which can lead to permanent damage.To the top



Ankle sprains - Sprains result in pain and swelling caused by tearing or stretching of some of the ligaments surrounding the ankle, usually on the outside of the joint. As these tears heal, they form scar tissue, which sticks to normal tissue and causes inflammation and continued pain. Without appropriate treatment, ankle pain can persist for months, even years.

Causes - Runners most commonly sprain ankles by stepping in a hole or tripping on a tree root or rock.

Treatment - As soon as you sprain an ankle, stop running immediately. You may not feel pain right away, but your ankle can be damaged further by continuing to run on it. The next move is just as critical. Elevate your leg and apply compression and ice. If pain and swelling persist, get to a doctor. A severely sprained ankle should be treated by a doctor or physical therapist, who will use ultrasound and friction massage to reduce the scar tissue.

Prevention - If you're prone to ankle sprains, avoid rocky trails or any uneven terrain. Wear a firmer, more supportive training shoe for better stability, and do exercises to strengthen your ankles.

Can you run with it? - No. Running on a sprained ankle will only damage it more.To the top


Athlete's foot - This fungal infection usually shows up under the arch of the foot or between the toes, where moisture is highest. It produces red, itchy lesions. Fortunately, the fungus lives on the outer layers of skin and won't invade your system. However, constant scratching can cause a break in the skin and lead to an infection that could invade your body.

Causes - We don't know why one person gets the fungus and another doesn't, but athlete's foot is picked up in wet public areas such as locker rooms and swimming pools. Another equally common cause is wearing damp, dirty socks and shoes, which are prime breeding grounds for fungus.

Treatment - Athlete's foot can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Creams, sprays and powders are much less effective than ointments and gels. Most people apply the medication for a few days until the symptoms are gone, but to truly eliminate this fungus, you must continue to apply the medication for two weeks after redness and itching have disappeared. Soaking your feet in baking soda mixed with water also works well.

Prevention - Wear clean, dry socks when you run. Use over-the-counter foot powders and sprays to keep your feet dry. Wear sandals in showers, around pools and in other wet public areas.

Can you run with it? - Yes.To the top


Black toenails - A black toenail is caused by a blood blister underneath the nail. The collection of blood under the nail discolors it and can cause pressure and pain, but black toenails generally are not painful. In most cases, the toenail eventually falls off.

Causes - A black toenail occurs when your toe becomes bruised from bumping against the end of your running shoe. This can happen if you do a lot of downhill running or racing or if your shoes are too small. Usually, runners with a Morton's foot type (the second toe is longer than the first toe) are most susceptible to having bruised second toenails.

Treatment - You need to drain the blood to remove the pressure. To do this, swab your toenail with alcohol. Then take a paper clip or other sharp, narrow object, heat it in a flame and push it through the toenail. Drain the blood, apply an antiseptic and cover the hole with an adhesive bandage.

Prevention - The best way to prevent black toenails is to wear shoes that fit properly. The toe box should be wide enough and the length of the shoe long enough so your toes don't bump against the shoe. You should have about a half-inch of space between the end of your longest toe (not necessarily the big toe) and the top of your shoe. Blister-free socks may help prevent friction.

Can you run with it? - Usually. If the toe throbs with pain, it's best to take a couple of days off and let the toenail heal.To the top



Blisters - Blisters are the accumulation of fluid between the skin's inner and outer layers. They are rarely serious but can become infected and force a layoff from running if not treated properly.

Causes - Prolonged friction between your foot, socks and shoes creates blisters.

Treatment - A blister should be opened as soon as possible. Then the skin layers will adhere together, and you'll be running pain-free the next day. Swab the blister with alcohol or other antiseptic solution and prick it with a needle heated in a flame. Drain the fluid, but leave the skin. Then cover the area with an adhesive bandage. Within 48 hours, most blisters are dry enough to expose them to the air.

Prevention - If you are susceptible to blisters, try wearing dual-layer or blister-free socks to minimize friction and moisture. (Socks made from breathable synthetics work especially well to keep your feet dry). Also, over-the-counter neoprene insoles can reduce friction. Break in new shoes gradually, and make sure you're wearing shoes that fit properly and are correct from a biomechanical point of view, as too much foot motion can cause friction. A shoe that is too tight will also cause considerable rubbing.

Can you run with it? - Let comfort be your guide.To the top


Bunions - A bunion is a bony growth on the side of the base of your big toe. Pressure from your shoe and motion at that joint can cause pain. Bunions gradually become worse until running and even walking are extremely painful.

Causes - A bunion is an arthritic condition that can result from a genetic defect, biomechanical problems (overpronation again is a culprit) or tight-fitting shoes.

Treatment - If you think your bunion is caused by overpronation, try an arch support or custom orthotic device, which will reduce overpronation and minimize the growth of the bunion. Wear a pad over the bunion to reduce friction. If your shoe is rubbing hard over the bunion, cut out the area that touches the bunion. Severely disabling bunions eventually require surgery.

Prevention - Assuming the condition isn't inherited, the most important measure you can take is to wear running shoes that aren't too tight in the forefoot. Also, if overpronation is a problem, you should wear motion-control shoes.

Can you run with it? - Yes, unless the bunions have become too painful.To the top


Calcaneal bumps - A bony protuberance behind your heel is called a calcaneal bump. Most often associated with a high-arched foot, the bony prominence pushes into the back heel counter of your shoe. Both the tendon and the soft tissues can become inflamed and painful when this occurs.

Causes - If you have a high-arched foot, the heel bone (calcaneus) can change alignment, and this causes an enlargement of the bone at the back of your heel. Sometimes your body will create a bursa, which is a sac of fluid that protects your tendon and other soft tissues. When you're wearing shoes, this bursa gets pushed up against the heel counter and becomes painful.

Treatment - Try cutting away the heel area of your shoes to minimize pressure against the protuberance. Or cut a doughnut shape from a piece of moleskin to place around the bump. If these methods don't work, see a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon, who may inject the bursa with cortisone to reduce the inflammation. In severe cases, surgery may be required to shave off the bone spur so that you can go back to your normal activities without pain.

Prevention - If you have a high-arched foot, wear a well-cushioned shoe that does not have an overly firm heel counter.

Can you run with it? - It depends on the severity of the inflammation and pain.To the top


Hammertoes - This condition usually occurs in the second, third or fourth toe. The toe is bent or contracted. Also, the little toe is usually curved. Hammertoes aren't painful themselves; however, they rub against your shoes, and the friction and pressure can create a corn (a buildup of hard, thick tissue), which can be very painful.

Causes - Hammertoes result from a misalignment of the foot. The condition may be inherited, but usually excessive overpronation causes the tendons of the toe to pull at a weird angle, making the toe bend. Gradually, the toe gets fixed in a bent position. A corn develops to protect the toe joint where it rubs against your shoe. Making this condition even worse are ill-fitting running shoes that rub against the toes.

Treatment - It's best to catch the condition in its early stages, before the toe becomes fixed. Orthotic devices or arch supports can correct the biomechanical problem causing the hammertoe. You can also try an over-the-counter device called a hammertoe crest pad, which will help move your toe back into a normal position. Reduce corns with an emery board or sandpaper. If corns become too painful, cover them with moleskin. If your toe is in a fixed position, you either have to put up with the pain or undergo surgery to correct the contracted joint.

Prevention - Motion-control shoes reduce overpronation. So do orthotics. In any event, make certain your running shoes are wide enough in the forefoot to prevent rubbing and the formation of a corn.

Can you run with it? - You can continue to run if it is not too painful.To the top


Ingrown toenails - Ingrown toenails almost always occur on the big toe and cause pain, as well as a potential infection wherever they grow into the softer skin. If an infection occurs, it can spread up your foot to other parts of your body.

Causes - An ingrown toenail can result from a number of factors, ranging from shoes that are too tight to a genetic predisposition.

Treatment - To treat an ingrown toenail, you must clear up the infection and remove the portion of the nail that is growing into the toe. Clipping the nail can be very painful; consider having a podiatrist do it. Soak your foot in warm water two or three times a day to reduce the infection. Antibiotics are rarely necessary. If your condition is chronic, a physician can permanently remove a portion of the nail root so that the ingrown toenail never recurs.

Prevention - Clip your toenails regularly, especially those on your big toes. Wear running shoes that are wide enough in the forefoot to prevent pressure and friction on the nail of the big toe.

Can you run with it? - Almost always.To the top


Metatarsalgia - Metatarsalgia is pain in your forefoot, in the area of your metatarsal bones - the bones that connect to your toes. Although the pain might feel as if it runs across the entire ball of your foot, generally it's under only one of the metatarsal heads. You can find it by pushing up under each metatarsal head with your thumb until you feel the one that makes you jump. Also, you'll feel a callus there. Metatarsalgia might feel like a bone bruise or as if you're walking on a pebble.

Causes - This condition is usually attributed to an alignment problem of the metatarsals. The one that hurts is generally lower than the others, which causes pressure and pain.

Treatment - The best way to treat this condition is to reduce the pressure on the injured metatarsal. You can do this with a metatarsal pad - a heart-shaped pad made of felt or rubber, which when placed in your shoe will help relieve some of the pressure. If the pad doesn't work, cut a hole in the insole of your shoe directly under the painful metatarsal. Usually metatarsalgia responds quickly to either of these two remedies, and only in the most extreme cases is a visit to the doctor necessary.

Prevention - Wear well-cushioned running shoes with soft midsoles - the softer the better. Over-the-counter insoles such as Spenco or Sorbothane may help.

Can you run with it? - Not if it hurts. If you do run, be aware that the continued pounding can lead to a stress fracture of the injured metatarsal.To the top


Neuromas - Pain in your forefoot, usually between your third and fourth toes, with numbness or tingling extending through those toes, almost always indicates a neuroma. A neuroma hurts more when you're wearing shoes and feels better when you take them off and massage your feet. Neuromas slowly become more painful.

Causes - A neuroma is caused by a pinching or irritation of one or more nerves in your forefoot, usually as a result of poor biomechanics. If you overpronate, the bones in your forefoot - the metatarsals - become a little "looser" and have more movement, which in turn irritates the nerves that run between the metatarsal heads. Accompanying the irritation is inflammation and pain. If a neuroma is left untreated, scar tissue can develop around the nerve, creating even more pain.

Treatment - Try using a metatarsal pad (a soft, heart-shaped pad) under your metatarsal area. This should reduce the motion of the metatarsals and lessen the irritation, provided the nerve damage is not too severe. Some arch supports and shoe inserts have metatarsal pads incorporated in them, and these can provide more relief. If these measures don't work, see a podiatrist or orthopedist. The nerve damage may be severe, and your doctor may consider cortisone injections. As a last resort, surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged nerve. This will solve the problem, but it can lead to permanent numbness between your toes.

Prevention - Since overpronation is often the culprit in neuromas, switch to firmer, motion-control shoes to limit excessive pronation.

Can you run with it? - You can, but it's best to wait until the nerve irritation dissipates before doing long runs.To the top


Plantar fasciitis - Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot ailments among runners. It usually begins as a tenderness or mild pain on the sole of your foot near the arch or heel. Gradually it becomes more severe and localizes to a spot under your heel that feels like a stone bruise or bone bruise. You'll find that your foot hurts first thing in the morning but feels better as it warms up during the day. You'll also notice the pain after you run.

Causes - The plantar fascia is a ligamentlike tissue that runs from the ball of your foot along the arch and inserts into the heel bone. If you have flat feet or if you run with too much foot motion (overpronate), the plantar fascia becomes strained, with most of the stress occurring at the heel.

Treatment - You need to either support your arch or lessen the amount of overpronation, or both. Running shoes with firmer midsoles generally will help, particularly motion-control shoes, which reduce overpronation. Over-the-counter orthotics or arch supports are usually effective, since they can provide that extra support you need. You can also tape your foot to support your arch and fascia. If you can run despite the plantar pain, massage the inflamed area of your foot with ice after running. If all else fails, get a custom orthotic device made by a physical therapist, podiatrist or orthopedist who's knowledgeable about running.

Prevention - Stretch your calf muscles before and after running. If you overpronate, wear firmer, motion-control shoes to limit pronation.

Can you run with it? - It depends on the severity of the pain. Generally, you can run with mild to moderate cases of plantar fasciitis.To the top

Products for plantar fasciitis:

Sesamoiditis - Beneath the ball of your foot, under the joint that moves your big toe, are two little bones called sesamoid bones. These bones can become bruised and inflamed, which will make you feel as if you're walking on a rock. The pain is usually sharp, and the area hurts whenever you touch it or step on it.

Causes - Sesamoiditis usually occurs in runners with high-arched, rigid feet, which don't pronate enough and thus don't absorb shock well. Also, if you have a bunion, you're more likely to get sesamoiditis, as the bunion deformity can lead to more pressure on one of the sesamoid bones.

Treatment - You need to relieve some of the pressure on these bones. First, change from running shoes with firm midsoles to shoes with a softer midsole. You might also use soft inserts in your shoes. If this doesn't work, cut a hole in the insole of your shoe right under the sesamoid bones. Most cases will respond to self-treatment and a change of shoes; it's rarely necessary to see a doctor.

Prevention - If you have high-arched feet, be sure to wear shoes with a soft midsole and good cushioning in the forefoot.

Can you run with it? - Probably. But if the pain is too severe, rest for a few days.To the top


Stress fractures - Stress fractures are partial breaks or cracks in a bone. In the feet, stress fractures usually occur in the second, third or fourth metatarsals. It will hurt to touch the top of your foot; if it doesn't, you don't have a stress fracture. Swelling may occur but usually doesn't.

Causes - Stress fractures result from chronic stress to the bone, usually from prolonged overtraining or switching from running on soft surfaces to running on hard surfaces.

Treatment - If you suspect a stress fracture, see a sports-oriented physician for a bone scan. Don't run at all for six weeks. That's how long it takes for the bone to heal completely. If you try to run on it sooner, you'll only prolong the healing period. The good news is that stress fractures usually heal without any complications.

Prevention - Stress fractures of the foot are almost always caused by overuse. If you notice a dull ache or foot stiffness or soreness, cut back on the intensity or amount of your running, or find softer surfaces to run on. Clearly, if you have had a stress fracture, you will need to alter your training to prevent a recurrence. Also, consider changing your running shoe to one with better shock absorption. And run at least a few days a week on soft surfaces such as grass or dirt trails, rather than roads or sidewalks.

Can you run with it? - You should not run with a stress fracture.To the top


Other common runners injuries:
Runners Knee Injuries
Shin Splints, Compartment Syndrome & Stress Fracture of the shin bone (tibia)

Related articles:
Why do runners get stress fractures?
Retuning to running after stress fracture or other major injury
Stretching before running or only after?,
long runs

Common foot ailments:
Burning Feet
Sweaty Feet
Foot Odor
Corns & Calluses
Toenail Problems
Plantars Warts
Flat Feet

Thanks Run The Planet  for the permission to reprint the article "Fourteen common foot ailments and their cures" originally  published by Running The World
Text copyright by Running The World.

This article has informational purpose and  isn't a substitute for professional advice.

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