Running is a great way to both get and stay healthy. However, without proper precautions, foot and ankle injuries can occur. Today's podiatrists are uniquely qualified to treat running-related foot and ankle injuries due to their specialized education, training, and experience. Don't let an injury stop your running routine in its tracks!
Look below for the five of the most common foot- and ankle-related running injuries, as well as prevention and possible treatment tips for each. Need to visit a podiatrist?
What it is: Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a fibrous band of tissue in the bottom of the foot that extends from the heel bone to the toes. This tissue can become inflamed for many reasons, most commonly from irritation by placing too much stress (excess running and jumping) on the bottom of the foot.
Prevent by: Stretching both before and after every run. Proper stretching is gentle and should not be painful. Wearing supportive running shoes that are appropriate for your foot type, as well as shoe inserts, can also be effective. Make sure to not over-train, gradually increasing how long or far you run.
Tips for treatment: Immediate treatments should include icing the area to help with inflammation (several times per day if possible), stretching, and taking over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medication and resting (refraining from running). For further protection, taping, custom foot orthotics, and the use of a night splint may be recommended by your podiatrist.
What it is: An ailment that accounts for a large number of running injuries, Achilles tendonitis is an irritation or inflammation of the large tendon in the back of the lower calf that attaches to the back of the heel. The condition is often caused by lack of flexibility and overpronation.
Prevent by: Stretching regularly. Shoe inserts such as heel cups and arch supports may also help to correct faulty foot mechanics that can lead to this injury.
Tips for treatment: Ice and OTC anti-inflammatory medications can be taken in the short term. Resting the affected limb is vital for quick recovery. A podiatrist may recommend immobilization in more severe cases (such as a walking boot) to allow the area to heal faster.
What it is: Morton's neuroma is often described by runners as a burning, stinging pain in the forefoot (commonly in the third and fourth toes). Other symptoms include pain in the ball of the foot and a feeling of "pins and needles" and numbness in the toes. Runners who wear tight-fitting footwear often experience this condition. A true neuroma is a benign tumor of the nerve, although entrapment of the nerve will give the same symptoms.
Prevent by: Wearing proper running shoes that fit well and have a roomy toe box, and do not lace shoes too tightly in the forefoot. Runners should wear shoes that feature adequate forefoot cushioning, and fit shoes with running-appropriate socks (those with a poly-cotton blend).
Tips for treatment: A podiatrist may administer a cortisone injection to provide relief for a Morton's neuroma, and recommend a wider pair of running footwear. A professional gait analysis, paired with customized foot orthotics, can often prevent the condition from reoccurring. Occasionally, surgical removal of the neuroma is necessary.
What it is: Stress fractures in the lower limbs are common among athletes in general and are commonly caused by repetitive forces on these areas. Symptoms include localized pain and swelling that grows worse over time. Stress fractures can occur over a period of days, weeks, or even months.
Prevent by: Modifying running equipment or training regimens. Replace running shoes on a regular basis (about every 400–500 miles), and see a podiatrist when pain is first noticed.
Tips for treatment: Stress fractures are like any other fracture in the body and require eight to 10 weeks to heal completely. Treatments may include complete rest and icing, immobilization using casting or bracing of the affected area.
What it is: Also referred to as "tibial stress syndrome," shin splints affect runners of all ages and are commonly experienced as a shooting pain felt near the front or sides of one or both tibia bones (the shins).
Prevent by: Performing stretches such as toe raises and shin stretches, and replacing running footwear often.
Tips for treatment: Shin splints can be treated immediately with ice and anti-inflammatory medications. A podiatrist may also recommend a physical therapy program, as well as testing to determine if prescription orthotic inserts could prevent further injury.
Looking for some foot-friendly running gear? View APMA's list of running products with the Seal of Acceptance.