Foot Problems for Runners

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What type of running shoes should I wear?

Whether you’re jogging at the gym or sprinting after a tennis ball, running puts tremendous stress on your feet. Finding a pair of good-fitting shoes that provide adequate support is the best thing you can do to protect them. If you’re a serious runner who puts in at least several miles each week, you should definitely do your shoe shopping at a specialty running store with well-trained salespeople. A few guidelines: Runners with high arches need a shoe with lots of bend, cushioning, and arch support. Runners with flat feet need a more rigid sole. Whatever your foot shape, your heel should be snug but your toes should have plenty of wiggle room.

Why is the bottom of my heel so sore?

If the bottom of your heel hurts, you might have plantar fasciitis. That means that the thick tendon connecting the heel bone to the arch of the foot has become stressed and inflamed. This may be a sign that you don’t have enough arch support in your shoes or that you’re rolling your foot inward (pronating) when you run. To give the tendon a chance to recover, you’ll have to take a break from running for a a week or so. Aspirin or ibuprofen will help calm the inflammation. Rolling your foot over a frozen juice can a few times of day can bring some extra relief. Before you hit the road again, get a new pair of shoes with more flexibility and more support for your arches. You can buy heel pads for cushioning. If the problem comes back, you should consult with an orthopedist or podiatrist. You may need custom-made shoe implants (orthotics) to give your foot the support it needs. If the pain is severe, you may need a steroid injection.

Why is the back of my ankle painful and swollen ankle?

Pain and swelling in the back of your ankle is a sure sign that your Achilles tendon isn’t happy. Achilles tendinitis is very hard to treat if you don’t act fast. As soon as you notice the pain, you should stop running and take some aspirin or ibuprofen. You should also apply ice to the sore spot at least twice a day for a week or two. Once you’re feeling better, be sure to stretch your tendon and calf muscles before each run.

What’s can I do about this sharp, burning pain in the ball of my foot?

You might have a stress fracture in one of your metatarsals, the long bones at the base of the foot. Stress fractures are especially common in runners who have recently added significantly more miles to their routine. The only thing you can do is stop running and give your foot a rest. The usual recovery time is one-and-a-half to three months. When you start running again, go slowly and only gradually increase your distances each week.

Further Resources

American Podiatric Medical Association


Harvard Medical School. Nine ways to fix foot pain. 2009.

University of Michigan. U-M expert offers tips to choosing the correct athletic shoes. 2009.

Mayo Clinic. Plantar fasciitis. 2009.

American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. Running and your feet. 2010.

By Chris Woolston

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