Avid runners, whether casual or competitive, must deal with the aches and pains that come along with running. Out our busy Seattle podiatry practice, running injuries are our specialty and we treat these injuries on a daily basis. If you’re a runner – whether you prefer 3K, full marathons or anything in between – here are five things you must know about your foot pain.
#1 Most runner’s foot pain is overuse injury
Running is, by nature, rhythmic and regular. It is physical activity in a persistent pattern that can lead to an overuse injury. An overuse injury is exactly what it sounds like – an injury from the same motion over and over. Some examples of overuse injuries from running include heel pain, shin splints, ankle sprain, stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis and turf toe. Overuse, injuries can be avoided with proper training, shoes and insoles/orthotics.
#2 Foot pain should never be ignored
In our practice, we see a lot of runners that are fitness warriors who tend to try and train through their pain. However, ignoring foot pain and trying to let it work itself out can lead to chronic injuries and long-term damage. Running injuries usually require professional care and, at the very least, should be properly diagnosed by a sports podiatrist to ensure you don’t ruin your ability to run. Delaying treatment and pushing yourself too hard can turn a minor injury into a major one that can derail your training.
#3 Barefoot running won’t end foot pain
Barefoot and minimalist shoes are on their way out in the world of jogging and running. Some runners believe that running shoeless or in “finger” shoes like Vibram will eliminate foot pain. The theory is that the human foot was designed to run bare. Studies have shown barefoot runners have just as many or more injuries. Cushioned rocker soled shoes are the newest trend in running shoes and recommended by medical specialist.
#4 Flawed biomechanics may be to blame for your foot pain
Biomechanics is the study of the mechanics and movement of the human body. Not everyone’s feet work the same way when it comes to running. The biomechanics of your feet can determine how prone you are to foot pain and other running injuries. Your running gait can cause you to roll your feet too far in or out which can cause foot pain, shin splints, and other ailments.
A sports podiatrist experienced in the biomechanics of the foot can assess your gait and determine if your foot pain is caused by the mechanics of your foot. In most cases, gait analysis is straight forward. In rare and complex cases, computerized video gait analysis may be required.
#5 Runner’s foot pain may be prevented
Proper shoes and support inside the shoe can go a long way toward preventing foot pain in runners. To determine the best shoe for your feet have your feet evaluated by a sports podiatrist.
Recent studies have shown that runners who alternate between two or more shoes have substantially fewer lower extremity injuries than runners who always run in the same model of shoe. In fact, there is more and more evidence that there is no one “best” type of running shoe but that the best protection comes with using a variety of shoes so as to avoid repetition of motion that leads to overuse injuries.
If using a variety of running shoes does not eliminate injuries then consider the use of prefabricated or custom orthotics. We often have our patients start in a quality prefabricated orthotic and if their biomechanics are such that they require more support we will prescribe a custom orthotic.
Custom orthotics can significantly reduce foot pain, prevent it in many cases, and also prevent injuries associated with avid running. Custom orthotics tend to be more effective than over-the counter inserts because they conform closer to the arch of the foot and thus provide greater support. In our practice, we find that these “total contact orthotics” are the most effective tools to avoid chronic foot pain and injury.
This type of orthotic which molds closely to your entire foot helps to distribute the impact of the force of your foot striking the ground as you run across more of your foot which reduces pressure on the bones of the feet and can prevent stress fracture, pain, and injuries.
If you’re a regular or intensive runner, be aware that chronic foot pain is a warning sign of potential injury. Seek the advice of an experienced and skilled sports podiatrist for assessment of your foot pain to ensure your feet remain healthy.
Dr. Doug Hale and Dr. Larry Huppin are award-winning podiatrists who practice evidence-based medicine at their Seattle podiatrist clinic. Dr. Hale and Dr. Huppin believe that surgery should be a last resort to treat foot pain in runners and are expert practitioners in biomechanics and orthotic therapy.