Sarah Russell

Sarah Russell

Q: I’m a competitive cyclist and am extremely fit, however when I run, I get a pain in my foot. I’m keen to keep trying as I enjoy the variety of training, but I’m not sure what to do with my foot? any ideas.

Thanks Carl, Somerset

A: Thanks for a really interesting question.  Firstly I’d urge you to see a good sports physio to check your foot out and get some treatment, exercise prescription or massage which might help. Secondly go along to your local running shop and make sure you’re wearing the right running shoes and that they fit well and are comfortable. There are a few things to consider here. As you’re already very fit (and especially as a cyclist), you’ll probably find running very easy. But your musculoskeletal system lags behind your cardiovascular system by some months, so whilst it feels easy, your muscles, tendons and joints need a bit more time to catch up and get used to the impact and new movement pattern. You’ll have to keep the reigns on – keep the pace nice and easy, add in plenty of walk breaks and build up with short distances – as your body won’t be used to the impact nature of running. So whilst it’s frustrating, take the time to build up slowly and allow your body to catch up with your fitness – almost like a beginner to running would do.  Maybe just try a couple of runs per week to begin with and keep an eye on distance and pace. It will just take a bit of time to transition to the new movement and high impact stress on your body, so be patient.  It wouldn’t hurt to throw in some running specific strength work as well.. squats, lunges etc, where you’re on your feet rather than using machines or sitting.

Also as a cyclist, it’s likely that you’ll be dominant (and/or tight) in certain muscles groups which may affect your running form and posture. Cyclists tend to be tight in the hip flexors and quads and calves, which can affect your pelvis position. The pelvis is the epicentre of the body and everything ultimately is affected by it’s position. If it’s not functioning or in the wrong position, the result can be a knee problem, or something even further away in the foot. It’s likely your foot problem is simply a symptom of some biomechanical imbalances elsewhere. I’d recommend you work really hard on foam rolling your quads (get right up into your hip flexors), calves and use a massage ball in your glutes and hips to try and release the pelvic muscles – and do it daily! Make sure you warm up properly with 5-10 minutes of leg swings, lunges, bum kicks etc, which will engage and activate your muscles prepping your body for your run. Includes lots of drills as part of your warm up – fast feet, bum kicks, skips etc – to teach your body good form and reinforce good running technique.. which will be new to you.

With regards specifically to your foot, look for tightness in your calves – and roll and stretch accordingly – but also release the tightness in the sole of your foot with a massage ball or golf ball. Roll the bottom of your foot a few times a day to release the muscles and fascia.

The great news is that as a highly trained cyclist, once you transition to running, you’ll enjoy huge benefits from your existing fitness. You’ll find you’ll have a huge capacity for longer distances and will be strong and able to push yourself. Cyclists understand cadence and often find that when they run they can hit a lovely quick pace and will run with a high cadence naturally as it’s been reinforced on the bike.  Just hold back initially and be patient.. and it will come. And if you consider taking up swimming as well.. you’ll probably find you’ll be strong at triathlon too. Good luck.

Our expert, Sarah Russell, has over 20 years experience in the fitness industry as a running coach, trainer, freelance writer and athlete. She has a Masters degree in Sport Science and is a England Athletics running coach