The number of women runners who complete running events has exploded in the U.S. with the percentage of women runners up 14% between 2000-2012. This is not surprising given the large number of women oriented races across the U.S including the ubiquitous Susan G. Komen 3-day and Race for the Cure, the Diva Dash in McDonough, Georgia, and Busting Butts to Save Breasts in Chandler, Arizona just to name a few. The number of female marathoners have also increased steadily during the same time period.
Although the benefits of running for men and women such as decreased stress, improved mood, decreased risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer are well known, few people talk about risks and impact of running on women’s feet.
Women who have flat feet and run are prone to acquiring a neuroma. High heels wearers are even more apt to get this painful condition and if left untreated the condition can get progressively worse. A neuroma most commonly develops between the third and fourth toes. Symptoms can include tingling, pain, burning, and numbness. As your Seattle podiatrist I use variety of treatments for this condition which can include orthotics, corticosteroid injections, and education about proper footwear.
Women runners get a double whammy when it comes to developing heel pain or plantar fasciitis. Anyone involved in high impact sports is more at risk and women are more prone to develop it than men. If you’re a woman runner who happens to love high heels you have the trifecta of risk for heel pain. Women who wear high heels can develop a shortened achilles or calf muscle. When women go from heels to running shoes the shortened calf muscle does not allow the plantar fascia to stretch when running causing micro tears and pain in the heel. Treatment includes avoiding high heels, temporary heel lifts, stretching exercises before running, OTC supports or orthotics.
Stress fractures are common in both men and women runners (they account for 10% of running injuries), but there are certain conditions that can put a women at greater risk for developing one. Once women begin menopause they start to produce far less estrogen which plays a significant role in bone strength. The likelihood of osteoporosis increases with age. In addition, bones can be more fragile in women who are very thin, don’t get proper nutrition to keep bones healthy, or develop amenorrhea from an eating disorder.
If you’re a woman who uses running as a way to stay fit or just for the sheer joy of it, I recommend taking the extra time to ensure that your feet and physical health are in tip top shape so you can keep doing what you love. If you run into any foot problems along your daily path, you can contact the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City at 206-368-7000 or request an appointment online.