young woman runningAs a runner you already know the many of the benefits you get from pounding the pavement--improved sleep, increased cardiovascular fitness, reduced stress, improved mood, and increased bone health. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you run at least 75 minutes a week you will have met the requirement for aerobic activity.

Although great for your overall health, running can take a toll on your feet. While some foot problems in runners are fairly minor (blisters, corns, and calluses) many foot injuries will need more immediate attention so the problem doesn't worsen.

Many runners experience heel pain at least one time in their running career. One of the most common heel pain conditions brought on by running is plantar fasciitis. It occurs due to overstretching of the plantar fascia (the band of tissue that runs from your toes to your heel on the bottom of your foot). You'll feel pain on the bottom of your heel when you first get out of bed in the morning. If left untreated it will worsen and make it unlikely for you to continue to run.

The plantar fascia can get overstretched when:

  • a runner over pronates
  • has very tight calf muscles
  • has gained weight (more weight equals more force on the plantar fascia)
  • a runner wears worn out shoes

Another heel pain condition found often in runners is Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis is caused by the same factors as plantar fasciitis. But instead the pain is felt on the back of the heel instead of the bottom.

Other foot problems and injuries that occur frequently in runners are stress fractures, shin splintsneuromas, and ankle sprains.

Preventing Foot and Ankle Injuries in Runners

Warm-Up and Stretching

A good warm-up and stretching are extremely important tools in preventing foot and ankle injuries. Before you run try a 10 minute jog before you do your usual upper- and lower-body stretches. We also recommend Dynamic Warm-ups for Runners to enhance your performance and prevent injury before you run.

Increase Your Training Slowly

You're much more likely to sustain an injury if you do too much too soon or if you're a weekend warrior
Keep in mind your current fitness level and talk to your physician before beginning any new training program. Runner’s World suggests running three days per week to give your body time to recover in between runs. In addition they recommend increasing your training time no more than 10-20% each week.

Change Up Your Exercise and Shoes

Your chance of getting an overuse injury goes up if you do the same exercises day in and day out and wear the same shoes. We can all get into a rut. Changing up your exercise and your shoes can help you avoid injuries that will sideline you from running.

Pick one or two other activities that use other muscles in your body and feet. Whether that's tennis, basketball, or going to a local Crossfit gym it doesn't matter.

Avoid irregularities in the surface you run on to prevent ankle sprains and breaks.

Purchase Proper Running Shoes

Buying proper running shoes and knowing when to re-purchase them are two of the most important decisions you'll make to prevent running injuries. We recommend that you go to a running store or another shoe store that you trust to get fitted properly. Seattle runners can go to Super Jock 'N Jill at Greenlake or REI to purchase their shoes.

Here are some important tips for buying a good pair of running shoes:

  • Shop at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen to get a good fit.
  • Try on shoes with the socks you will wear when running. If you use an orthotic, bring that to the store when you try on shoes as well.
  • Have your feet measured standing up and fit your shoes to the larger of your two feet.
  • Be sure there is enough room in the toe box for your toes to wiggle and about a half inch between your toes and the end of the shoe.
  • Run your hand all over and inside the shoes to feel for any seams or catches that might irritate your foot.
  • Consider buying two pairs and rotating your wear to give each pair time to breath between runs and extend the life of each pair.
  • Test your shoes for stability (video)
  • Replace running shoes twice year or about every 500 miles.

If you experience heel pain, I suggest you first try using over-the-counter inserts like Superfeet or Powerstep.

If you continue to have heel pain or other pain while running call us today at 206-368-7000 for an appointment, often same day. You can also request an appointment online.