The foot and ankle contain dozens of bones and joints—all of which bear the brunt of pressure when you're running. In fact, when you run, your feet strike the ground with 2 to 3 times the force of your body weight.
It’s no wonder then that several potential foot and ankle injuries can occur as a result of running.
- See Common Running Injuries: Foot Pain and Common Running Injuries: Pain in the Ankle or Back of the Heel
Here is a breakdown of the most common injuries:
Plantar fasciitis is a very common problem for runners. It’s caused by an inflamed or damaged plantar fascia (which runs along the bottom of the foot), and it triggers sharp heel pain. This pain may get progressively worse while running, or it may hurt most first thing in the morning when you get out of bed.
Plantar fasciitis will often resolve on its own with rest, but self-care tactics like stretching, icing, and changing footwear or adding shoe inserts can speed recovery and ease pain.
Other causes of heel pain: Achilles tendonitis, heel bursitis
Heel pain can also be caused by inflammation of the tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel (Achilles tendonitis) or by irritation of the bursa sac that sits between the heel bone and Achilles tendon (heel bursitis). These two problems are often confused for each other and can sometimes exist together.
Although the causes of heel pain can be difficult to distinguish, the treatments for these conditions are similar: rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE) and stretching.
The metatarsal bones are the long bones that connect each toe to the midsection of the foot. Through the repetitive stress of running, they are vulnerable to develop small, hairline fractures known as stress fractures. Stress fractures may cause little or no pain, or they can cause dull, aching pain that gets worse while running and gets better with rest.
Treatments for stress fractures can range from simple rest to bracing/casting or even surgery, depending on the location and severity of the fracture.
Metatarsalgia and Morton's neuroma
Stress fractures aren’t the only running injuries that can affect the metatarsal bones. If the heads of the metatarsal bones are irritated or subject to pressure, this can cause pain and irritation in the ball of the foot. The symptoms of metatarsalgia have been described as the feeling of a pebble in your shoe. Morton's neuroma is similar, but also causes sensations of tingling or shooting pain.
These conditions can improve with rest or a switch to better fitting shoes, but Morton's neuroma may warrant a trip to the doctor if the pain continues.
All of the previous injuries listed are overuse injuries, meaning that they occur not from one traumatic event, but from repetitive forces caused by overtraining or poor biomechanics, which triggers injury.
However, ankle sprains are acute injuries caused by falling or rolling an ankle. Symptoms include immediate ankle pain and weakness, and swelling usually follows shortly after.
As with the other injuries in this post, treatment for a sprained ankle requires rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). It may also be helpful to keep weight off a badly sprained ankle until it is healed enough to better support your weight.
If you are experiencing foot or ankle pain and self-care steps such as rest, ice, or stretching have not improved your symptoms after a few weeks, make an appointment with your doctor so you can get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.