By Tom Austen
How running impacts on the foot
Whether you are running for fun, fitness or running a marathon, you put yourself and your feet under great stress. On average, you put six times your body weight through each foot when running, which can emphasise any minor or major potential problems significantly!
Potential problems and when to seek the help of a podiatrist
Pain is the body’s way of letting you know something is wrong. Listen to your body and act on it!
Training can cause normal aches and pains. Something called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a normal response from muscles repairing themselves after training. This typically occurs one to two days after a training session, and only lasts a couple of days. An injury is typically something that does not go away and causes you to stop or reduce your training. The most common injuries for runners are listed below:
Pain at the front of the knee
Referrered to as Patellofemoral pain syndrome this is pain in and/or around the front of the knee or knee cap. This typically is worse with repeated bending of the knee (ie running) and going up or down stairs. The pain is typically non-specific with little or no swelling.
Pain typically on the outside of the knee
Referred to as Iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBFS), this is typically an overuse injury with a tightening of the band of tissue which runs down the outside of the thigh and inserts into the outside of the knee. Pain typically occurs as the foot hits the ground when running, due to the increased angle of the leg.
Achilles Tendon pain
Achilles Tendinopathy is another overuse injury, involving the tendon at the back of the leg and foot. This can either have a gradual onset or become painful after a particularly gruelling session. Early treatment is ideal with Ice Compression and Elevation (ICE), addressing any mechanical abnormalities that are present, leading on to a strengthening programme.
Known as Tibial stress syndrome, this a pain that occurs either in the front or inside of the shin which typically improves once you have warmed up and then is painful the following morning after exercise. A mechanical cause in relation to lower leg alignment can be a big influence in shin pain, and this should be addressed.
Otherwise known as Plantar fasciitis, this usually happens on standing up first thing in the morning or after a period of rest. This improves as you warm up but then gets worse the more activity you do. Podiatrists are in an ideal position to treat this, as orthoses can reduce the stress on the band of tissue under the foot.
All of the above injuries need treatment
If you think you have one of the above problems you should consult a podiatrist. The podiatrist can also assess your ‘mechanics’ - the way you run or walk and offer advice, stretches or exercises to aid performance and prevent injury in the future. They will also assess the need for orthoses, which are special inserts that go inside your shoe to address abnormalities in the way your foot works.
Maintaining healthy feet for running!
Keep your feet clean and dry to prevent blisters. Ensure you shower and dry your feet thoroughly after you have been for a run, to prevent athlete’s foot. Change your trainers every 500 miles, to prevent general pain from lack of cushioning or reduction of support. Trainers do not last forever!
It is essential to get the correct footwear, as this is vital to keeping you injury free and at peak performance.
There are a number of companies that make ‘functional footwear’ for running rather than fashion-based footwear. There is also a multitude of trainers with differing amounts of support to suit different foot types. Find a specialist retailer who can assess your foot properly and fit the correct type of trainer for your foot type.
Specialist retailers should be able to advise you on specialist socks that have improved fit, wick sweat away from the foot, prevent blisters and some even have silver threads to reduce smell and prevent athlete’s foot infections.
Five top tips when running
- Wear the correct footwear. Get these fitted properly to suit your foot type. Too small and they can cause black toe nails and blisters.
- Wear the correct socks to reduce the risks of fungal infection and blisters.
- Warm up before you run.
- Stretch and warm down.
- Get fresh and out of those socks! Take a towel and spare socks to change in to after your run.