Running is one the world's most popular sports. After all, all it takes is some shoes and you can lace up and run right from your door. No need for a gym membership or special equipment. However, because running is such an accessible form of exercise, many people get into the sport without realizing the impact it could have on their feet and legs. As it turns out, there's a lot more to running than meets the eye, and certain things you do during your run could actually be causing the pain in your feet.
1. You're running in shoes that are too small.
As you exercise, your feet have greater circulation, which means that they will actually increase in size as they fill with blood. Therefore, you should actually buy running shoes that are a half size to full size larger than your regular street shoe size. Wearing shoes that are too small during your run can lead to:
- hammer toes. If your shoes are too small, your toes will have to curl up unnaturally in order to make your foot fit better inside. This curl, over time, will stiffen the joints in the toes and cause the tendons to become immobile. If you run too long with hammer toes, this problem can only be corrected by surgery.
- a bruised dorsal area. The top of your foot, also known as the dorsal, swells during the run, and the laces of the shoe will not yield against the extra pressure. Therefore, the top of the foot becomes tender.
- cramping. You will find that your muscles will involuntarily flex in order to compensate for being forced in smaller space. They will begin to cramp from not being able to extend fully as you run. Not only will your muscles be sore, but the impaired movement will also cause discomfort in the ankles and knees.
2. You're overcompensating your pronation.
If your feet naturally turn inward when you run, your running shoes should correct the gait in order to protect your knees. Feet that turn inward, or over-pronation, is more common in females, whose wider hips naturally lead to knees that angle in, turning the feet inward as well. However, many people choose shoes with inside support that pushes the foot too far the other way-- they overcorrect. Therefore, the foot is made to artificially supinate instead; you'll be running with your feet turning outward instead of straight.
If you notice that you have intense ankle pain or shin splints, these are signs that your shoe may not be fitting right. You can tell if you over-pronating or supinating in your shoes by looking at treads. If the wear is mostly inward, toward the arch, over-pronation is not perfectly corrected. In the same vein, if the wear in on the outside curve of the foot, with little toward the inside arch, your shoes are pushing your feet too far outward as you land.
3. You only run.
Nobody should be a one-trick pony, but this is especially true for runners. Even though you are most comfortable pounding the pavement, you need to supplement your running with other exercises that utilize different muscles. Mixing up your exercise regimen is important because the most common injuries in athletics occur because of overuse. You use a certain muscle to much to soon, and that muscle becomes strained. The same goes for bones. Tiny fractures in your joints can make continued exercise painful. These stress fractures and muscle injuries can be prevented by:
- choosing a low-impact exercise to supplement a running routine. Good exercises for runners include biking, swimming, or resistance training.
- knowing when to quit. Long runs increase endurance, but they also increase your chances of injury. Listen to your body. Running through muscle and joint pain will only make things worse.
- giving your muscles good TLC after a workout. Stretching and hot/cold compresses help to loosen tight areas, reducing the chances of overuse injuries.
If you're experiencing foot or ankle pain during your runs, keep these factors in mind. If the pain is extreme or doesn't go away after remedying these problems, contact a podiatrist or physical therapist.