Runners: How to Prevent 2 Common Foot Injuries

Jogger Stretching

The warm weather has arrived. If you’re a runner, that might mean buying a new pair of running shoes, stocking up on energy bars, or plotting the best route to follow on your morning jog.

But have you thought about your feet? Are they ready?

Your feet take the brunt of both the push-off and landing phases of running and are prone to a variety of injuries, the two most common being plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Learn about these 2 conditions and most importantly, how to prevent them by following the 4 Ss.

Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick ligament on the bottom of the foot that stretches from the heel to the ball of the foot. The plantar fascia helps support your arch during weight-bearing activities like running, dancing, hiking and tennis. It is prone to tearing if the inflammation is not addressed and the ligament is overworked for a long period of time.

If you experience pain extending from your heel into the arch of your foot, typically first thing in the morning, you may have plantar fasciitis. As the condition worsens, you could experience pain throughout the day.

Plantar fasciitis can be both a slow-healing and chronic condition, sidelining you for months. The earlier you start treatment after noticing symptoms, the more likely you are to have a successful recovery.

Your doctor will likely recommend limiting activities that are causing the heel pain, wearing shoes with good shock absorption, putting ice on your heel, or taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen or naproxen. If these methods don’t provide relief after 6 weeks, your podiatrist may suggest other non-surgical or surgical options.

Achilles tendinitis is another injury runners often experience. The Achilles is the large tendon that originates from the calf muscle and attaches to the back of the heel bone.

If you feel a dull or sharp pain along the back of the tendon (usually close to the heel) or limited ankle flexibility you may have Achilles tendinitis. As it progresses, visible swelling is often present and will typically get worse with activity. The Achilles can tear if it continues to be stressed.

Similar to plantar fasciitis, if you experience pain, stop running, take a NSAID if your doctor recommends, and ice the area 15-20 minutes several times a day to reduce the inflammation.

The 4 Ss of Foot Injury Prevention For Runners

Of course the best advice is to prevent plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis before they begin. Here are some tips I share with my patients:

  • Stretch: Get in the habit of stretching before you run or engage in any athletic activity.
  • Support: Important that both your regular shoes and sneakers have it!
  • Sandals and flip flops: Always fun to break out with the warm weather. Just be sure they have adequate arch support.
  • Slow but steady: Gradually increase your mileage or intensity, particularly when just beginning to run.

Each person’s foot injuries are unique. That’s why it’s always important to talk with your podiatrist, who will work with you to create treatment and prevention plans best suited to your needs. 

author name

Steven J. Kattler, DPM, FACFAS

Steven J. Kattler, DPM, FACFAS, is a podiatrist with Lancaster General Health Physicians Podiatry. Dr. Kattler’s areas of special interest include sports medicine and gait analysis. He has expertise in treating athletic injuries, and utilizing custom orthotics and brace therapy.

Education: Medical School—Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine; Residency—Frankford Hospital.

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