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BOTTOM OF FOOT PAIN RUNNING?
LEARN CAUSES, TREATMENT & PREVENTION

pain in bottom of foot after running

When you experience foot pain, your day, week, or even month can be negatively impacted—regardless of how the pain has arisen.  

It’s a total drag when you experience bottom of foot pain running. After all, you’re just trying to enjoy your favorite, healthy activity! Nobody wants to finish a solid run only to find that their feet hurt or feel super uncomfortable.

In addition to running, there are many other aggravators and causes of foot pain out there. In this article, we’ll review a few causes of bottom of foot pain specifically, as well as treatment and prevention options. 

Common causes of bottom of foot pain

Metatarsalgia

There are five long bones in your foot known as the metatarsal bones. If the tissues surrounding them become inflamed, the condition is known as Metatarsalgia. This can feel like burning, aching, tingling, numbness, and/or stabbing in this region of the foot. Metatarsalgia may even cause associated pain and discomfort in other areas of the foot, since you’ll naturally start to compensate and over-favor.

When you flex your foot, each metatarsal bone is engaged. With this type of overuse injury, you’ll really feel it each time you make this simple motion—and the feeling won’t be a good one until you do something about it. 

A few ways to remedy pain surrounding metatarsal bones:

  • Wear supportive shoes: Running shoes, recovery footwear, metatarsal pads, and/or orthotics may help to ease the pain.
  • RICE: This stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevate. It can be helpful to switch between warm foot baths and cold foot baths to control inflammation. 
  • Cross-train: If your pain is manageable and you’re still keen to exercise, choose a different, lower-impact sport. Running with Metatarsalgia will surely aggravate the situation.   
  • Call your doctor: Should your pain be prolonged, despite home remedies, or if you suspect something else may be at play, get in touch with your doctor to be sure. 

Plantar Fasciitis

You’ve likely heard this term before, but if you’ve never experienced it, you may not know exactly what it means. This condition occurs when the plantar fascia, a connective tissue that supports the arch of the foot, becomes tight, strained, inflamed, or worse yet—torn.

This common type of foot disorder can cause stabbing heel pain or aching, as well as discomfort felt at the bottom of the foot, and can worsen over time if left untreated. Frequent runners are prone to developing this kind of overuse injury, which can interrupt their running program, as well as their daily routines.   

A few ways to remedy plantar fasciitis:

  • Stretching and strengthening exercises: Stretch your calves, Achilles tendon, and the bottom of your foot to help treat plantar fasciitis. Engage in exercises that strengthen your lower leg region and foot muscles, and try incorporating a foam roller. This can help ease pain, and keep plantar fasciitis from coming back.
  • Combining ice and heat therapy: Alternating between ice foot baths and warm foot baths help with blood flow and reduce inflammation. Add in some Epsom salts to the warm water (as they will disintegrate faster than in the cold water) and this mixture will increase the muscle healing benefits. 
  • High-impact break: If tennis, jumping or running are exacerbating your plantar fasciitis, take a breather and try a low-impact sport in their place. This will keep you active without the repeated stress being placed on this part of the foot. There are plenty of fun, low-impact activities out there to choose from. 
  • Night splints: These are splints that you wear while you sleep. They keep your feet at a 90-degree angle to help stretch your foot, instead of it pointing downwards in its natural position (which is fine for unproblematic feet, but can aggravate those with plantar fasciitis.)

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a result of damage to the peripheral nerves, aka the nerves located outside of/away from the brain and spinal cord. This condition can cause weakness, numbness, stabbing sensations and pain in both the hands and the feet. 

Those with chronic, autoimmune diseases can end up with peripheral neuropathy. This condition can also arise from vitamin deficiencies, and physical injuries, such as an accidental electrical shock injury.  

A few ways to remedy Peripheral Neuropathy:

  • Foot baths: Soaking your feet, in warm or cold water, may provide some relief. Soaks that include certain essential oils, as well as Epsom salts, can also help to relieve foot pain.
  • Devices and wearable equipment: Certain medical devices such as braces, canes, walkers, specialty footwear can help prevent complications from this condition.
  • Committing to exercise: Regular exercise will help to regulate blood sugar, and if the condition is caused by diabetes, can help relieve associated symptoms. 
  • Quit drinking and smoking: Having a healthy lifestyle can improve pain and discomfort. Tobacco and alcohol should be avoided, as they have negative impacts on your overall health, i.e. causing circulatory issues and worsening any symptoms from this condition.  
  • Wear compression socks: These specialized socks are helpful for conditions like peripheral neuropathy, reducing excess swelling, inflammation and pain associated with this condition.

Stress fractures

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone that result from overuse. When there is repeated stress placed on certain bones, these types of fractures can occur. Since the foot is rather complex and made up of many tiny bones (26 to be exact!) it’s at increased risk of this happening, especially when it comes to high-impact sports. 

Activities such as running, jumping, and playing badminton or tennis can cause this to happen, namely when these sports are being engaged in excess, or without the proper footwear. 

When someone experiences a stress fracture, they’ll feel localized pain, tenderness, swelling or aching Often these sensations will be felt most acutely during the activity, and resolve with rest. With more severe, or a higher number of fractures, these unwelcome sensations will linger even after the activity is over.  

For individuals with osteoporosis, who are elderly, or who have other reasons for weakened bones, stress fractures can even develop from regular use of the bone(s).

A few ways to remedy a stress fracture:

  • RICE: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation can help speed up the healing process. 
  • Keep healthy: Incorporating a variety of nutritious foods into your day will maintain your overall health and keep you strong, assisting in bone reconstruction and healing.  
  • Seek a medical opinion: Don’t wait too long to talk to your doctor if you think you’ve experienced a stress fracture that isn’t healing on its own, as you don’t want to aggravate the situation. If at-home remedies aren’t effective within a week or so, or your pain is not improving/worsening over time, get in touch with your physician right away. 
  • Try a medical boot: A boot will help you keep off the fractured foot. A podiatrist will be able to give detailed and personalized recommendations on this based on your circumstance. 
  • Cross-train: Find a low-impact activity while you heal, like swimming, that will keep you active, but take pressure off the problematic area of your foot. 

How to prevent bottom of foot pain after running

When it comes to our feet, we’d all love to avoid discomfort. But what are the best ways to thwart foot pain?

Here are some tips on how to deal with, and even help prevent, bottom of foot pain. 

Try massaging 

There are a few ways you can effectively massage a sore foot. 

  1. With your own hands, using your thumbs in particular to massage the bottom of your foot - heel, arch, pad and toes
  2. Using a small ball to roll back and forth on while seated to apply pressure, helping to loosen the tense muscles and increase blood circulation in the foot
  3. Seeing your physical therapist for a therapeutic massage that may also involve electric acupuncture techniques  

Run on softer terrain

Pounding the pavement can make your feet sore. So switching to plush grass in a park, or a dirt trail in a forest, is always a great alternative. Just be careful with any dips in grass or muddy patches that could cause you to slip or roll your ankle. As long as the surface is still relatively flat, you’re golden! Plus, who doesn’t love to be immersed in nature on a run?

Frozen water bottle rolls 

Consider ice your best friend when it comes to alleviating pain and inflammation. Using a frozen water bottle is a helpful technique as you can apply massaging pressure while using cold therapy. The best way to go about this is:

  • Sit down on your couch or in sturdy chair
  • Place your foot over a frozen water bottle (the grip from a bare foot will prevent the bottle from sliding around or rolling away)
  • Roll your foot back and forth on the water bottle for a period of time you’re comfortable with

Wear supportive footwear

Running Shoes

Proper running shoes make a huge difference when it comes to foot support. When you’re running, or engaging in other high-impact activities, your foot needs to be secure, comfortable and reinforced. Be sure to replace any old or ill-fitting shoes as well.

Recovery Shoes

Recovery footwear is a reliable way to speed up the recovery of sore feet. They’re a great type of shoe to swap out your runners for once you’ve returned home after a long run. Just be sure your recovery sneakers are durable, breathable and cushioned.

Orthotics

Podiatrist or physical therapist-recommended orthotics may be a wise choice as an insert for your running shoes, and may fit into other shoe types as well. They can help to stabilize foot mechanics.

Try toe yoga exercises

Yoga in the traditional sense is a posture-based, relaxation technique used for whole body fitness and stress relief. The same idea can be applied to toe yoga. It is an effective method used to strengthen your feet and toes, and one you can easily perform in the comfort of your own home. Simply lift your big toe independently of your little toes, hold, and repeat, twice a day.

When to seek medical attention

If you experience foot pain after running that doesn’t subside on its own, or you’re experiencing severe pain, be sure to seek medical advice. It’s never a good idea to wait for pain to turn into a severe injury.

Your doctor may recommend injections such as cortisone shots and/or Platelet Rich Plasma, as they can help alleviate the inflammation and speed healing. It’s also possible surgical intervention may be required, depending on the complexity and intensity of the problem.

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