Runners Can Improve Their Performance with Proper Foot Health, say Foot and Ankle Specialists
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Runners Can Improve Their Performance with Proper Foot Health, say Foot and Ankle Specialists

January 18, 2016

The weather might be cold and there might be snow on the ground, but the start of race season is only a couple of months away. Runners training for a marathon or other distance race are still hitting the pavement while the rest of us try to keep warm.

Whether you're training for a half marathon or just staying true to your New Year's resolution, the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) says that runners can improve their performance by keeping their feet in top condition.

According to a release from the organization, runners should be on the alert for signs of these common foot problems:

Heel Pain

The most common complaint from runners is heel pain caused by inflammation of the ligament that holds up the arch, a condition known as plantar fasciitis.

According to foot and ankle surgeons, in athletes, heel pain can result from faulty mechanics and overpronation in which pressure is unequally applied to the inside of the foot. It also can be caused by wearing running shoes that are worn out or too soft.

At the first sign of heel pain, foot and ankle surgeons advise runners to do stretching exercises, wear sturdier shoes and use arch supports. In some cases, icing and anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, are helpful. Should heel pain continue, custom orthotics, injections and physical therapy might be required.


Neuromas are another other common foot problem that affects runners. A neuroma is a pinched nerve between the toes that can cause pain, numbness and a burning sensation in the ball of the foot. Overly flexible shoes often are the cause and padding, orthotics or injections usually are effective.


Serious runners can be sidelined with tendonitis if they ignore the warning signs of this overuse-related condition.

Foot and ankle surgeons explain there are several forms of tendonitis that affect the Achilles and other areas, and all are treated with rest, icing, stretching and anti-inflammatory medications, and sometimes with orthotics and physical therapy. Over-zealous training usually causes tendonitis, especially among beginners who try to do too much too soon.

Broken Bones

A common myth among athletes, according to foot and ankle surgeons, is that it's not possible to walk or run if a bone in the foot is fractured.

Often physicians hear from patients, "It can't be broken, I can walk on it." Don't believe this common myth. Stress fractures can occur in the foot and be slow to show symptoms, such as pain and swelling.

If a fracture or sprain is suspected, runners should remember the word RICE as an abbreviation for Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation.

Should pain and swelling continue after following this procedure for three or four days, you should see a foot and ankle surgeon for an x-ray and proper diagnosis.