Foot Pain – What Could It Be?

Whether it’s a sudden discomfort or a persistent dull ache, foot pain in runners is a common problem. Our feet get put through a lot when running – up to three times the body weight gets placed on each set of 26 bones. And at least half of all regular runners get injured each year, with an injury occurring on average per 100 hours of training. No matter if you’re new to running or an old hand, you will at some point experience some form of pain in your feet and need to know how best to approach resolving it. So here are the 5 most common causes:

  • Plantar Fasciitis


What the pain feels like: stabbing pain in the heels or arches that may feel worse or be experienced as a sensation of tightness after long periods of rest

The cause: inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot, caused by the stress of running on the feet over time

Treatment: rest, stretching, NSAIDs, insoles or physical therapy, care and diagnosis from a medical professional is necessary

  • Metatarsalgia


What the pain feels like: pain between the toes, under the ball of the foot, has been described as the sensation of walking on a pebble

The cause: irritation of the tissues surrounding the metatarsals (foot bones), caused by excess pressure from improper contact with the ground – usually due to wearing the wrong shoes

Treatment: switch to wearing soft cushioned shoes at all times, rest, ice and compression until healed, this should be treated as if it’s a bone fracture so care from a medical professional is necessary

  • Stress Fracture


What the pain feels like: mild pain in a specific area that worsens over time and with impact, potentially alongside swelling on top of the foot

The cause: a small crack or fracture in the bone of the foot created from overtraining or accidental missteps whilst running

Treatment: 6 to 8 weeks rest (non-weight bearing activities), training with a stress fracture can cause the bone to fully break, a qualified medical professional can diagnose and help treat this accordingly, though it can be difficult to pick up via X-ray

  • Morton’s Neuroma


What the pain feels like: similar to Metatarsalgia but with an additional sensation of burning, tingling or numbness

The cause: nerves irritated from compression due to a thickening of the tissue surrounding them, sometimes occurring because of tight shoes, other times because of hypermobility in the foot

Treatment: wearing shoes that aren’t tight, are supportive and secure the foot, preventing excessive movement; insoles; prescribed treatment from a medical professional

  • Tendonitis or Tendinopathy


What the pain feels like: a throbbing, burning or nagging pain that limits comfortable movement; there are various tendons on the foot so the pain may be felt on the arch, across the top or around the ankle

The cause: a stretching of the tendon beyond its normal range of motion creating irritation and inflammation (tendonitis) or long term overuse (tendinopathy)

Treatment: rest, ice, elevation, stretching and compression; prescribed care from a medical professional is necessary


How to prevent foot injuries caused by running

  • Make sure you’re wearing the right shoes with the proper support for your feet – everyone’s feet are different and need varying levels of support in different places, it can be helpful to get fitted trainers by a store that specialises in running shoes
  • Don’t overtrain, increase your intensity gradually and rest properly – half of the most common causes of foot pain are due to the absence of these crucial steps!!
  • Strengthen and stretch your feet – this will build resilience in the muscles and tendons and help prevent the occurrence or recurrence of injury


Written by Amy Moretsele