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. Below is a list of foot conditions commonly associated with running. People with flat feet or high arches and people who over-pronate tend to be at a higher risk for these injuries.
Runners who experience a stabbing heel pain may have plantar fasciitis. The pain may be worse when going up stairs, standing for a long time, or after prolonged rest, such as getting out of bed in the morning.
The plantar fascia is a thick band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot between the toes and heel. If the fascia becomes inflamed, it can cause painful symptoms ranging from mildly annoying to debilitating. Conservative treatments, such as resting, stretching, and over the counter anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen), are successful in treating 90% of cases.1
Patients with metatarsalgia sometimes report feeling like there are pebbles in their shoes or bruising on the balls of their feet. The pain occurs between the 2nd and 3rd toes, 3rd and 4th toes, or near the big toe, and is most notable when running, walking or standing.
Metatarsalgia symptoms develop when excess pressure is put on the metatarsal bones, the long bones in the foot that lead to the toes. Intense running training can lead to metatarsalgia. Other risk factors include wearing ill-fitting high-heels.
Morton's neuroma occurs when a fibrous tissue grows around a nerve in the foot. The symptoms are the same or similar to metatarsalgia, but also include burning or tingling sensations, numbness, and/or a sharp, stabbing or shooting pains.
Some doctors consider Morton's Neuroma to be a type of metatarsalgia (some even call it Morton's metatarsalgia), while others consider it to be a separate diagnosis. Morton's neuroma is also sometimes called forefoot neuroma or interdigital neuroma. This condition warrants a trip to the doctor and can get worse over time if not treated properly.
A stress fracture is a small crack that develops gradually through repetitive stress on a bone. The impact of jogging can cause a stress fracture to develop in the foot, most frequently in a metatarsal bone, one of the long bones that join with the toes. Over time the pain will become more pronounced, and the foot may appear swollen and bruised.
Pressing down on the top of the affected foot may cause severe pain. Pain will be more noticeable during and after weight-bearing activity and less noticeable after sleeping, when the bone has had time to rest.
Stress fractures can be difficult to see on a standard X-ray. A definitive diagnosis may require an MRI or bone scan, though this step is not always necessary prior to non-surgical treatment. Recovery typically takes 4 to 6 weeks. A person who has osteoporosis has less dense bones and is more likely to experience stress fractures.
If a painful foot or ankle does not get better with rest within two or three weeks, or if pain is severe, medical attention is warranted. A primary care physician, physiatrist, podiatrist or orthopedist can make a diagnosis and recommend treatment.