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GOT SIDE OF FOOT PAIN AFTER RUNNING?
WHAT TO KNOW & WHAT TO DO

pain on side of foot after running prevention

Side of foot pain after running can be a result of many things, from foot injuries to medical conditions all the way to incorrect footwear. But there are two sides to your foot, so can you experience pain in either place? Indeed, you can.

Lateral foot pain refers to the outer side of the foot and ankle, whereas medial foot pain is in reference to the inner side. Both sides of your feet can experience pain, soreness and injury pre-, post-, or during a run or other activity. Sometimes it can even happen when you least expect it, like when you’re out for an innocent stroll.   

In this article, we’ll discuss how you can end up with side of foot pain, as well as some of your treatment and prevention options. 

Here are a few prevention methods:

Ankle strengthening

When you have ankle pain, it can lead to other related foot pain. It can also lead to over-favouring certain parts of your foot, which may subsequently cause pain to crop up in new areas. Keeping your ankle strong will help prevent ankle pain as well as other forms of foot pain. 

These are the categories of ankle strengthening exercises:

  • Static Exercises: This type of exercise allows you to perform ankle strengthening without having your ankle in motion - to be performed in the early stages of your healing journey
  • Resistance Exercises: This type of exercise incorporates resistance bands to aid in ankle strengthening - to be performed in the mid-stage of your healing journey
  • Dynamic Exercises: This type of exercise encourages foot movement in order to increase mobility - to be performed in the latter stages of your healing journey

      Foot stretches

      Stretching the whole foot, as well as isolated parts of the foot, can help loosen tense muscles, increase blood flow, and reduce pain.

      Here are few different types of foot stretches:

      • Big toe stretch: By gently stretching your big toe upwards, downwards and side to side, you’ll relieve pain and tension not only in the toe itself, but in the bunion area as well.
      • Toe raise, point, and curl: These stretches one after the other will increase flexibility and improve strength in all areas of the foot, not just the toes. 
      • Ball Roll: This exercise can relieve tension and discomfort of the heel, arch, ball and side foot muscles. You can use a tennis ball, exercise ball, or even a frozen water bottle to reduce inflammation. Wearing shoes that support

      Proper running shoes 

      Wearing the right running shoes can make or break your running experience—both during and after. Ensuring you have supportive, cushioned and flexible runners will provide a comfortable run and lessen the chance of injury.

      Proper recovery shoes

      Recovery shoes are a helpful addition to your rotation, especially after high-impact activities like running. Wearing them around the house, walking, or even while performing certain stretches can aid in your foot and body’s recovery from the intensity of the sport. Make sure to choose recovery sneakers that stimulate, breathe and have solid traction.

      Keep balanced

      Pay attention to how you’re placing your body weight on your feet as you’re standing, walking, running, (and even sitting.) Being aware of this can ensure your foot muscles remain balanced, and prevent you from favoring certain parts, or sides, of your feet. 

      For instance, if your feet roll inwards (overpronation), outwards (supination), or you have flat feet, you may be putting undue strain on either side (or both sides) of your feet. Try to engage all regions of your foot equally, including your toes, whenever your feet are planted.

      What are possible causes of medial and lateral foot pain?

      Bunions

      Bunions not only look wonky, but they can often cause discomfort along the sides of the foot - above, below, and on top of the bunion. Bunions are a bone malformation that cause your big toe to angle inwards and point towards the other toes. Genetics and incorrect footwear can both be the causes of bunions.

      Ankle sprain

      An ankle sprain refers to an injury of the ankle ligament that happens when you roll or twist your ankle unnaturally. It is not one of the ankle injuries associated with a fracture or a dislocated bone. An ankle sprain can lead to foot pain not only at the site of the ankle, but laterally as well. 

      Stress fractures

      Tiny cracks in the bone are called stress fractures, and can occur in any bone in your foot. Stress fractures, or hairline fractures, are caused by overuse or repeated stress on the bones (i.e. long distance running, jumping, etc.) One example of a lateral stress fracture would be in the fifth metatarsal, your outermost metatarsal bone connecting from midfoot up to your pinky toe. 

      Cuboid syndrome

      Cuboid syndrome occurs when the joint and ligaments near the cuboid bone are dislocated and injured, causing lateral sharp pain, weakness and tenderness. These sensations can radiate to other areas of your foot. Repetitive strain on the foot, ankle sprains, or insufficient recovery time between exercises can all cause this to occur. Wearing tight shoes can also worsen pain.

      Peroneal tendonitis

      Peroneal tendonitis is inflammation of the peroneal tendons, which connect your lower leg to your foot. This condition can cause pain and swelling at the back of the ankle, the outside of the lower leg, as well as on the side of the foot. Excessive running and/or abnormal foot striking can cause peroneal tendonitis to occur.

      Friction blisters

      These types of blisters can form anywhere around the perimeter of your foot, and are commonly seen in runners. Often the causes of friction blisters are shoes that are ill-fitting, and feet that are constantly getting sweaty and rubbing against the sides of your shoe or socks. 

      A great way to avoid this is to be sure you break in your new shoes, and ensure they are the right size and shape for your foot. Though it’s sometimes easier said than done, try to also keep your feet dry when you can. If you feel or notice the first signs of a friction blister at the heel or sides of the foot, get your hands (or rather, your feet!) on a second skin dressing or blister bandage to cover and heal it. 

      Tarsal coalition

      This rare condition is congenital (having developed at birth.) When the tarsal bones at the top of the arch, heel, and ankle connect abnormally, it causes pain, limited motion and stiffness. These sensations can be felt at the back of the foot, along the sides, and possibly in other areas of the foot.  

      Arthritis

      Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can affect your foot, and is the most common type of arthritis. As it worsens over time, more pain and stiffness in movement and weight bearing can be felt in the foot, including at the sides of your feet. Since the affected arthritic areas are no longer functioning at their best, this can cause overcompensation in other parts of the foot and body.

      What kind of treatment is available?

      RICE

      Fortunately this steadfast method can work wonders when it comes to relieving your lateral or medial foot pain. Simply rest, ice, compress and elevate your foot and you’ll be golden. Just be sure to take breaks between icing (not more than 20 minutes in one sitting) and place a cloth barrier between your skin and the ice pack to reduce any injury to the skin.

      Medication

      OTC medications can help with inflammation and pain, however these should be taken sparingly, and with caution. Always read the labels on any medication, and check with your doctor about any questions or concerns you may have. Although these are not prescriptions, their potential side effects, interactions and recommended dosages must be fully understood before proceeding.

      Physical therapy

      Physical therapy sessions can further your healing process and may be required if at-home techniques aren’t effective. Your physical therapist may perform electric acupuncture on your foot for stimulation, light therapy, or aided massage. Your physio can often help to improve blood circulation in the area of concern, relax the muscles, and make recommendations for optimal balance and support. 

      Immobilization of the foot

      Particularly in situations where your bone has been fractured, your physician may have a short leg cast (starting below your knee and is open-toe) fitted for you. This will allow you to completely relax your foot in a protective encasing, without risk of further injury or accidental pressure being placed upon it. Crutches may also be incorporated into your healing program. 

      Walking boot

      A medical walking boot is another way to heal your foot after an injury, however it differs from a cast in that it can be removed. Usually your physician will recommend that it stays on for most of the day (and sometimes even overnight) with only brief breaks taken from it. This boot will help your foot heal and protect it from further damage, while still giving you some mobility. You’ll find that you walk much more gingerly with this on.

      Stretching and strengthening exercises

      As long as you’re not dealing with a brand new fracture, or intense swelling, other foot strains, pains and stiffness can benefit from gentle stretching and strengthening exercises. 

      These exercises (as previously described) can help with blood flow and muscle movement, increasing range of motion and bringing the energy back to your foot. Just be sure not to overdo it too soon or too quickly so you can encourage  successful recovery. 

      When to see a doctor

      If you’ve broken the bone along the side of your foot, it’s possible surgery could be necessary, especially if it can’t heal on its own from other treatment methods. This will depend on the severity of the break. 

      Persistent stabbing or burning pain in your foot may also require medical attention. You’ll want to get in touch with your doctor to diagnose the issue, as there may be a nerve issue at play.

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