3 Common Causes of Foot Pain from Running

As the coronavirus pandemic has pushed more and more people out of their daily routines, workplaces and gyms, people are taking to the streets in ways they haven’t before. Namely, first-time joggers, gym-goers and bored people everywhere are hitting the pavement in an effort to stay – or get – in shape during quarantine.

Running is an inexpensive and accessible exercise everyone can do to improve their health. In fact, some studies have found that running just five to 10 minutes every day at a moderate pace can reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, running can help strengthen bones, build muscle and improve overall mood.

Many new runners, however, will quickly experience foot pain from running. And while foot injuries from running are common, the underlining causes vary from runner to runner.

Causes of Foot Pain from Running

Your foot is a complex network of bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons that work together while you run. As such, a running-related foot injury may involve one or more parts of this intricate network. Before deciding whether or not you should see a doctor for your foot pain, you may want to determine if something as simple as changing your shoes or improving your running form could help reduce or eliminate your foot pain after running.

While we always recommend seeking an orthopedic foot specialist or a podiatrist for a proper foot pain diagnosis, the following information may be helpful when determining whether you need to see a foot specialist.

Toe Pain During or After Running: Hallux Rigidus

The big toe plays an outsized role in walking and running. Or – more correctly – the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint that joins the metatarsal bone in the forefoot to the phalanx (first bone of the big toe) is crucial to proper foot function. This joint, which connects the big toe to the rest of the foot, bends every time you take a step and allows your foot to roll forward and push off the ground. Amazingly, this one small joint supports 50% of your body weight during this part of your gait.

Literally meaning “stiff big toe,” hallux rigidus is a form of degenerative arthritis and is the second most common of the big toe after bunions.

While there are a number of biologically-related causes of hallux rigidus, such as osteoarthritis and inflammatory diseases, if you started having pain in your big toe during or after running, it may be due to overuse or injury.

Commonly referred to as “turf toe” in athletes, hallux rigidus can be caused by spraining the MTP joint or stubbing the toe while running. Simple overuse of the joint from running too far or too often can also cause hallux rigidus.

Heel Pain After Running: Plantar Fasciitis

Are you experiencing stabbing pain in your heel or the bottom of your foot after running? Do you experience the same foot pain first thing in the morning and after long periods of sitting?

If so, your foot pain may be plantar fasciitis.

Very common in runners and one of the most common causes of heel pain, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the thick band of tissues that connects your toes to your heel bone along the bottom of your foot. This tissue – called the plantar fascia – acts as a shock absorber that also supports the arch of your foot when you walk and run.

Excessive tension and stress on your plantar fascia can cause irritation, inflammation and small tears in the tissue, which may result in sharp heel pain. Long-distance running – particularly with poor running form – can cause plantar fasciitis, as can flat feet and high arches.

Thankfully, if your heel pain after running is plantar fasciitis, resting, icing, stretching and improving your running form often can relieve your symptoms. If your pain persists, seeing a foot specialist for a diagnosis is recommended.

Sharp Foot Pain from Running: Stress Fracture

Are you new to running – or running more than usual – and are suffering from acute, localized foot pain? You may have a stress fracture.

Per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

“A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone, or severe bruising within a bone. Most stress fractures are caused by overuse and repetitive activity, and are coming in runners and athletes who participate in running sports, such as soccer and basketball.”

Whether you’re running on asphalt, on trails or otherwise, a sudden change or increase in exercise, workout intensity or even switching from the treadmill at the gym to the streets around your home, can cause stress fractures in your foot.

Most often found in the metatarsal bones – the middle bones of your foot – stress fractures in runners are also common in the heel, the ankle, the ankle joint and the top-middle foot bone (navicular). Most stress fractures of the foot are overuse injuries – especially in long-distance runners and those new to running.

As diagnosing stress fractures can be difficult, if you’re experiencing a sharp pain and think you may have a stress fracture, see an orthopedic foot specialist immediately.  

If you’ve suffered a foot injury from running or are experiencing foot pain and have questions for an orthopedic doctor, please feel free to contact us. We are more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

18 Comments


i do run and i only have foot pain on my left foot its right behide my toes i run on the front part of my foot so not sure if its something that i should be worry about

thanks

Reply

    Hi William,
    It sounds like you may benefit from getting some custom orthotics to provide extra support while running. Dr. Jason Dickerson, our podiatrist, would be happy to help you with that! Give us a call at (435)615-8822 so we can schedule you for an evaluation and scan you for orthotics.

    Reply

    William, your pain is exactly where my pain is. Did you get help with yours? I slow jog and walk when weather is good outside however we got quite a bit of snow one day so I started slow jog/walking on the treadmill. That is when the pain started a couple of days ago. Now I can’t even bounce on the mini tramp without it exacerbating the problem. Wish there was a solution.

    Reply

      Hello Dee,
      If you are looking for a solution for the same type of pain as William, custom orthotics should do the trick! If you’d like to try them out, Dr. Dickerson would be happy to help. All it takes is a quick exam and scan and we can get those ordered for you. Give us a call at (435)615-8822.

      Reply

Hi! This was a very helpful post, thank you. I have been running for a while, but just upped my distance by a couple miles. My right foot has a sharp pain in the outer middle meaty area and hurts when I land on it, walking or running. What do you think that could be?

Reply

    Hi Janet,
    We’re happy you found our article helpful! The pain you’re experiencing could be a multitude of different issues. It may be plantar fasciitis but the only way to truly determine that would be with a doctor exam. We have a very experienced and exceptional foot doctor at our office, Dr. Jason Dickerson, that could help you pin point what the issue is and get you proper treatment. If you’re interested in seeing him just give us a call at (435)615-8822 and we will get you in asap.

    Reply

Can you recommend a home based care for an aching sole? Mostly, my sole aches after running and it gives a nerving effect while walking or after I sit down for a while.

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    Hi Anthony,
    I would recommend buying orthotics or arch support off of Amazon. Look at reviews of the product to make sure you get the best one. If the pain continues after a two week trial of using your arch support or orthotics, you should get in to a podiatrist for a diagnosis and more effective treatment options. Hope this helps!

    Reply

I have love to run and have done it on and off for years. But after a long time of not running (because of all of the Covid stuff) I started again. And all of the sudden I started getting a shooting pain right at the base of my big toe the shots into the middle of my foot. It takes a couple of days for the pain to go away. Then I try again and it all repeats again. Any suggestions on what it could be or a sneaker that might be more supportive would be greatly appreciated.

Reply

    Hi Amy,
    With this information you provided it could be one of many different things from turf toe to arthritis. You could try a the RICE method for two weeks (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). However, this issue you have seems to be reaggravated each time you run despite the rest your have probably been giving it. The quickest and most effective way to get the recovery you desire would be to see a podiatrist so you can receive diagnosis and treatment.
    A sneaker our podiatrist recommends for extra support is called Hoka. Looks like those can be ordered on the store’s website, Amazon and select stores.

    Reply

I’m having excruciating pain in my knees legs and feet after running eighth continuous days on the beach(5-10 miles a day) eeekk I was literally fine for four days and then it all hit. I’ve mainly been resting.

Reply

    Rest after strenuous activity is always a good idea. The body needs time to recover and heal. Sounds like some nice scenic running though, being on the beach 🙂

    Reply

The bottom of my foot hurts under the big toe and on the joint of the Big Toe. It hurts after I play basketball in my Jordan 1 shoes. What does this mean?

Reply

    Billy,
    There are a lot of factors that could be causing pain in the joint of your large toe. Without a proper examination, and possibly imaging, I would be unable to give you a diagnosis.
    That being said, some of the causes for pain in this area include:
    Arthritis or Osteoarthritis, sprains, fractures, bunions, Sesamoiditis, and tendon inflammation.
    If you do not recall an injury, like a sprain or fracture, and you do not see a bunion on your foot, you may have Sesamoiditis. This can be caused by overuse and is typically described as a dull pain under the big toe joint that comes and goes.
    Honesty though, it could be something completely different. Unfortunately, you won’t know until you see a specialist. Hope this helps.

    Reply

I did a 10-mile race. Nothing hurt at all during the race or even the day afterwards. 2 Days after the race, my right foot hurts to the point where I can barely stand on it. I has been several days since and pain has gone away. I have never felt this type of pain before so I am not exactly sure what this is, but it sounds similar to plantar fasciitis, but I feel the pain more in my arch then my heel.

Is it worth going to a doctor now or waiting a few more days to see if it heels on its own? Should I start stretching it now?

Reply

    If the pain has gone away I would wait and see if it continues to heal and improve. If you are able to stretch, I would recommend it. Start slow and seek out a Physical Therapist if you need guidance on the type of exercises to do. I would also recommend getting your shoes checked. Make sure you are running in supportive shoes. If the pain returns, it might be time to see a specialist. Happy racing!

    Reply

I been a runner for about a decade. I currentlg have pain and tightness in the arch and top of my right foot when I run. No swelling no specific tenderness on palpation.
Previously been fitted for orthotics, however, they gave me significant blisters on my left foot arch so i stopped using them and haven’t had an issue for years, until now. What could this be related to?

Reply

    Kelsey, is the pain only when you run, or is it constant?
    Orthotics are commonly uncomfortable when you first start wearing them. You need to slowly increase the amount of time you wear them so your feet can get used to the change. That being said, they shouldn’t be leaving blisters.
    I would recommend seeing a podiatrist or orthopedic foot specialist to evaluate your pain.
    It could be your running shoes, plantar fasciitis, or even a stress fracture. I am unable to give an accurate diagnosis without a proper evaluation.
    Your Orthotics, when fitted right, can have a great impact on foot pain. I would recommend having your orthotics adjusted as well. Hope this helps.

    Reply

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