Foot injuries in runners are among the most common running injuries encountered and unlike some of the others out there, they can be particularly debilitating. You might be able to tolerate (even though you shouldn’t) a strained calf muscle or sore knees, but you can’t run on an injured foot.
Feet are amazing.
Each foot takes the entire weight of your body and force of the running movement for every step you run, absorbing up to an estimated 110 tons of cumulative force per mile and then again just using one single foot at a time, transfers this force to the front of your foot, from where it pushes off again to propel you forward. A single step while running creates an impact force approximately two to three times your bodyweight. That’s a lot of weight, a lot of force and a lot of pressure on your feet.
It’s perhaps not surprising that overuse injuries in the foot represent a hazard for runners with poor form, who push off from or land on their feet in the wrong way. Correct running form can be an annoyance to those just wanting to get out there and run but its role in preventing injury is fundamental. It’s amazing how different people react to you when you talk about running form, depending on whether your audience are runners or non-runners – the latter will scoff and dismiss the topic, instantly judging you to be an obsessive, anal, running bore, while the former occupy the extreme other end of the seesaw, recognising the absolute importance of form.
Foot injuries among runners are either bone or muscular. Common muscular injuries include plantar fasciitis and tendinopathies of the midfoot and forefoot.
Then there’s your bone injuries caused by overuse, which might involve:
The metatarsal bones
The Navicular Bone:
Ignoring injuries is not to be recommended. I would be the first to put my hand up and own up to pretending that I did not feel something off in my foot during training for the last while, that that burning feeling along the outside of my left foot is “just a niggle” and “grand”. DO NOT DO THIS.
I stuck my head in the clouds and left it firmly up there for the last two (ish…I wasn’t counting) months and hoped that the increasingly frequent burning pain along the outside and underneath of my left foot would just vamoose of its own divine accord.
Shockingly, it did not.
I was at the peak of a marathon training block and had only 4 weeks left until race day. My thinking was that if I could just mind the foot with ice baths and lots of rest in between runs, I’d be able to manage the niggle and make it through to race day. In other words, I did that thing that everyone says not to do – put my desire to run a race ahead of my long-term physical health.
DO NOT DO THIS.
Yes, I “managed” the niggle by being able to do my runs at a not intolerable level of discomfort in the foot and yes, I did manage to run the marathon. But… the pain/ discomfort did grow increasingly more acute as the weeks progressed to the point where I could even feel it after walking only a short distance. I could hardly walk after the marathon and spent the next few days with a necessary limp.
Being a Dumbass.
I decided to rest completely from running for 4 weeks to give my foot a chance to heal. It has been 5 1/2 weeks since then and the injury is still here. I can feel it when I walk, I can feel it when I stand and I can even feel it when I’m sitting down and the foot is at rest. I let it get worse, ignored the symptoms and now I’m facing the prospect at not being able to run again for months.
Finally, copping on.
I visited a Podiatrist/ Chiropodist today, who was unable to offer a diagnose or advice, (but who did provide a wonderful service to my feet!). She noted some swelling in my feet and the areas of discomfort I described to her, suggesting that my orthotics might be in need of adjusting after so many years – and that they could be causing excessive strain to be placed on particular areas of my feet. She recommended a visit to the physiotherapist and perhaps an MRI.
I made the first appointment I could get to see the physiotherapist where I first got the orthotics made and where I have since gone for other running related niggles. Suddenly I feel the urgency to get this seen to properly.
Suddenly I feel a panic that this pain is not going away and that I may not be able to run for months.
Suddenly, I feel like I should have reacted more suddenly many months ago when I first noticed this “niggle”.
Suddenly, I don’t feel like a hardy, tough, badass, brave running heroine.
Suddenly, I feel like a fool.
Don’t you be a fool too. Please, if you feel a niggle, get it seen to. Because suddenly, a niggle won’t be a niggle any more.
To follow me on this injury diagnosis journey, come back soon where I’ll be giving a run down on my upcoming physiotherapy appointment and outcome…. For more detail about running injuries in the foot, this article is quite informative, as is this one.