Why Do My Feet Hurt When I Run? 10 Basic Causes and How to Prevent Them

If you’re wondering “why do my feet hurt when I run?”, this article is for you!

Many reasons can cause foot pain during running since there are a variety of muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons involved in the activity.

The most common causes include flat foot, plantar fasciitis, heel pad syndrome, stress fractures, hallux rigidus/valgus, Achilles tendonitis, posterior tibialis tendonitis, ankle strains, and pulled calf muscles.

Let’s discuss what each of these conditions is, how they happen, how to manage/treat them, and how to prevent them.

1. Pes Planus (Fallen Arches)

What is it

Commonly known as flat foot, pes planus is a condition where the arch of your feet doesn’t show as normal when standing.

Why it happens

Infants are born without foot arches since their bones, tendons, and ligaments aren’t fully developed yet. But this typically goes away at around 3 years of age once the tendons and ligaments of the feet tighten.

However, such tightening may not take place, leading to an adult with flat feet.

Flat feet can be a genetic condition or a consequence of a muscle-affecting disease. It can also result from an injury to the foot.

How to treat it

To alleviate flat foot pain, you can try the following:

  • Wearing medical shoes
  • Wearing orthotics
  • Losing weight if you’re obese
  • Not standing for a long time
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication

How to prevent it

Preventing flat feet is practically impossible because it’s mostly hereditary. If it’s in your genes, then there’s nothing you can do about it.

The best you can do is manage its pain.

2. Plantar Fasciitis

What is it

Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a ligament connecting the front of the foot to the heel that serves as arch support and impact absorber.

Why it happens

It’s still unclear why plantar fasciitis occurs, but its main symptom is a feeling of pain at the bottom of your heel in one foot only. Sometimes, however, you can experience pain in both feet or at the bottom of the mid-foot section.

Also, pain associated with plantar fasciitis usually starts as discomfort and gradually increases in intensity. It’s also likely to flare up after a while of inactivity (sitting down or lying on the bed) or right after running.

How to treat it

To ease the pain of plantar fasciitis, try the following:

  • Using braces
  • Icing your foot
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication
  • Doing stretching workouts

How to prevent it

Preventing plantar fasciitis pain when running is possible by wearing shoes with extra arch support and replacing them every 500 miles. It’s also important to do stretch exercises before each run.

3.  Heel Pad Syndrome

What is it

Heel pad syndrome occurs when the elasticity and/or thickness of the heel pad -a layer of tissue located on the feet’s soles- is altered.

Why it happens

The change in elasticity or thickness of the heel pad can be the result of several factors such as aging, obesity, improper walking form, and wearing improper shoes for running or walking. Medical conditions like plantar fasciitis can also lead to heel pad syndrome

How to treat it

To reduce heel pad pain, try the following:

  • Resting
  • Icing the affected heel
  • Wearing heel-supporting shoes
  • Wearing orthotics
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication

How to prevent it

Preventing heel pad syndrome caused by factors other than aging is possible by losing excess weight, practicing good walking/running form, avoiding walking on hard surfaces unnecessarily, and choosing proper shoes for your activities.

4. Stress Fracture

Why Do My Feet Hurt When I Run:Stress Fracture

What is it

If a bone gets a tiny bit cracked, it’s called a stress fracture. Your feet and legs are common sites for the development of stress fractures, which cause pain when running.

Why it happens

The main reason for sustaining a stress fracture is overuse. Exposing a bone to too much force and pressure too frequently can lead to a small crack.

You can develop a stress fracture more easily if you regularly engage in high-impact activities, have weak bones (if you suffer from osteoporosis), or if you use worn-out shoes when running.

How to treat it

To treat a stress fracture, you should wear a brace or use a crutch to take the load off of your foot until it heals completely. This should be accompanied by reduced activity, using protective shoes, resting your foot, and icing it.

How to prevent it

You can prevent stress fractures by incorporating low-impact workouts into your routine, avoiding sudden increases in exercise intensity, wearing proper shoes, and sticking to a healthy diet.

5. Hallux Rigidus

Hallux Rigidus

What is it

Hallux rigidus is a condition where the MTP (metatarsophalangeal) joint -the joint between the big toe bone and the rest of the foot- becomes stiff and causes pain. It’s a type of degenerative arthritis, which explains why some people refer to it as big toe arthritis.

Why it happens

Hallux rigidus results from overusing or overstressing the joint. It can also occur due to toe injuries or medical disorders such as gout, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

How to treat it

Wearing proper running and walking shoes is an important part of easing pain from hallux rigidus. You should also reduce movement involving the affecting toe, soak your foot in hot water then cold water, and take anti-inflammatory medication.

How to prevent it

Preventing the worsening of hallux rigidus requires resting the joint when it starts to cause pain, exercising to strengthen the joint, and wearing appropriate shoes.

6. Hallux Valgus

What is it

Another reason that answers the question, Why Do My Feet Hurt When I Run? could be hallux valgus. It’s a condition that affects the MTP (metatarsophalangeal) joint where the bone of the big toe bends toward the second toe, causing the joint to protrude.

Hallux valgus is what’s commonly called a bunion.

Why it happens

Hallux valgus occurs mostly due to a person’s genetic bone structure. You could also develop this condition if you suffer from arthritis, hypermobility, or overpronation.

How to treat it

To manage and treat hallux valgus, you can try the following:

  • Wearing orthotics
  • Choosing an appropriate shoe size
  • Icing the affected foot
  • Avoiding strenuous activity
  • Taking pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Resorting to surgery

How to prevent it

Proper footwear is key in preventing bunions. Your shoes shouldn’t be too tight or pressing. They should have a wide toe box to avoid irritation and cramping.

7. Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles Tendinitis

What is it

Achilles tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendon that connects between the heel bone and the calf muscles, which is called the Achilles tendon after the Greek mythological hero Achilles.

Why it happens

This condition is usually the result of putting the tendon under excessive and frequent stress during workouts and sports.

It can also occur due to aging, medical disorders such as arthritis, sudden high-intensity exercise routines, and wearing poor-fitting or worn-out shoes.

How to treat it

Here are some tips to help alleviate Achilles tendinitis:

  • Avoiding strenuous activity
  • Stretching before and after running
  • Icing the feet
  • Exercising to strengthen the tendon and calf muscles
  • Wearing heel-supporting shoes
  • Incorporating low-impact workouts into your routine
  • Taking pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory medications

How to prevent it

Preventing Achilles tendonitis is possible through stretching before and after running, gradually increasing the intensity of your runs, taking rest days, and wearing appropriate footwear.

8. Pulled Calf Muscle

What is it

If you suffer from a pulled calf muscle, this means you’ve strained the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles — the muscles in the back of the lower half legs.

The primary symptoms of this condition include pain in the lower half leg, pain when standing on the ball of the foot, redness, and swelling.

Why it happens

A pulled calf muscle is typically a temporary pain due to overstretching the muscles when you put them under excessive physical stress. If it’s persistent, then it’s probably caused by a lingering injury.

How to treat it

To treat a pulled calf muscle, try icing the affected area and wrapping it with compression tape. You should also avoid working out before it heals to prevent further injuries.

How to prevent it

To prevent pulling your calf muscles, you should stretch/warm-up before running and stretch/cool down after running.

9. Ankle Sprains

sprain ankle

What is it

Three ligaments within the ankle joint attach your foot to your lower leg. If one of these ligaments gets too stretched or is torn, the condition is called an ankle sprain.

Why it happens

A sprained ankle can result from pretty much any wrong move that causes an overstretch in the ligaments. This could be twisting your foot while walking or planting it wrong during a run.

How to treat it

The magic word here is RICE, which refers to resting your foot, icing it, using a compression wrap, and keeping the ankle elevated. You can also couple this with some anti-inflammatory medication.

Seek a doctor if your ankle doesn’t feel better after 7 to 10 days.

How to prevent it

Here are a few tips to avoid ankle sprains:

  • Doing strengthening workouts
  • Wearing proper running shoes
  • Running on a hole-free and obstacle-free surface

10. Posterior Tibialis Tendonitis

What is it

Also known as PTTD (posterior tibial tendon dysfunction), posterior tibialis tendonitis is the inflammation, damage, or tearing of the posterior tibial tendon. This tendon is the connection between bones inside of the foot and calf muscles.

Why it happens

Posterior tibialis tendonitis can occur due to repeated strenuous exercise, obesity, and injuries to the foot or ankle.

How to treat it

Resting your foot and icing it is a great start to treating PTTD. Wearing orthotics and taking anti-inflammatory medication can also be very beneficial.

How to prevent it

Here are a few tips for PTTD prevention:

  • Stretch your lower leg before running
  • Do strengthening workouts
  • Wear arch-supporting shoes

Final Words On Why Do My Feet Hurt When I Run

Why Do My Feet Hurt When I Run, As you can tell, most of the issues that cause foot pain when running can be avoided by stretching before workouts and wearing proper running shoes. Doing strengthening exercises and following a nutritious diet can also be helpful.

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