As an endurance runner, I’ve faced more than my fair share of running injuries and challenges. While in some respects injury is inevitable, many common ailments that endurance runners and marathoners face can be avoided with the right know-how. While all sorts of issues can plague runners, from hip problems to calve pains, none are more common than foot injuries.
If you’re aware of what causes these common foot injuries and issues, you can stop them from happening before you ever have to go through them.
Here are four of the most common foot injuries that runners face and how to prevent them. Save yourself the pain and frustration!
Preventing 4 Common Foot Injuries for Endurance Runners
1) The Injury: Plantar Fasciitis
The Prevention: Change Your Routine
Plantar fasciitis isn’t an injury specific to runners, but it is certainly common to them. It is characterized by pain in the heel caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of muscle that runs along the arch of your foot, connecting heel to toes. This injury is often caused by overuse and repetitive motion.
If you run too much, intensify your routine too early, wear poorly fitted shoes or shoes without enough support, or run only on one surface or run the same routine every time, you increase your risk of plantar fasciitis.
You can help prevent plantar fasciitis primarily by wearing the right running shoes, pacing yourself when you train, and by switching up your routine once in a while so that you aren’t making the same repetitive motions day in and day out. Try running your route in the opposite direction or picking another path on a different surface.
If you do find yourself dealing with this malady, rest usually does the trick. An anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen helps, as does mild stretching.
2) The Issue: Athlete’s Foot
The Prevention: Be Smart About Your Running Shoes
Athlete’s foot is the plague of high school gym classes everywhere. If you think you’re immune to it just because you’re out of the locker room, you’re wrong. Every athlete can fall prey to this pesky fungus if they’re not careful! Athlete’s foot thrives with moisture, so your best line of defense is in taking good care of your running shoes.
Primarily, you want to make sure that you are wearing dry socks and shoes. Don’t allow sweaty shoes to rest closed up in a gym bag, small spaces, or with balled up socks from your previous run. Invest in a second pair of running shoes if you find your shoes aren’t drying out and buy moisture-wicking socks.
Remember that if you do get an infection, treat it fast with over-the-counter treatments and watch it carefully. Spray your shoes with Lysol or a vinegar mixture to kill any bacteria that might be hiding and wait for them to dry.
3) The Issue: Blisters
The Prevention: Reduce Moisture & Friction
Blisters are a painful and annoying nuisance for runners everywhere. While not an injury in any serious sense, a bad blister can prevent you from running if it’s particularly painful. There are two major causes of blisters: moisture and friction. When the skin gets soft, you’re more susceptible to blisters. As with preventing athlete’s foot, avoid wearing damp shoes and socks, and invest in moisture-wicking socks to keep sweat and moisture at bay.
To prevent friction, you’ll want to make sure your shoes fit well and that your socks do, too. Socks that are too large will slide around on your feet even if your shoe fits. Avoid any pronounced seams that add friction to the foot as well.
4) The Injury: Stress Fractures
The Prevention: Proper Warm-up & Cool-down
No runner wants to deal with a stress fracture. This painful injury is going to be more common among endurance runners who rack up 50 miles or more per week in their routine. It happens with excessive running, particularly when you suddenly increase the intensity of your routine. It can also happen if you step wrong while running, in the same way you would sprain an ankle.
In general, however, stress fractures develop over time as tiny fissures in the bone that grow under prolonged stress until it becomes a full-blown fracture.
You can prevent stress fractures by easing yourself into those high-mileage endurance numbers. Most experts recommend increasing your distance by no more than 10% at a time. It’s also vital to prioritize your warm-up and cool-down. Using a foam roller can help get your blood flowing, as can more traditional stretches.
So much of your long-term success as an endurance runner depends on your ability to maintain a consistent training regimen. One of the ways you do this is by preventing the injuries and issues that force you to take prolonged breaks to heal and recover.
As they say, prevention is the best cure!
Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a foot injury? Tell your story in the comments below.