When you fall in love with an activity, especially one that promotes cardiovascular health, strengthens the heart, and even improves your overall mood, the last thing you want is to side-line yourself due to injury. For many of you, running is everything. You use it to manage anxiety and focus your thoughts. It makes you a healthier and happier version of yourself. You can’t imagine your life without running.

“The sense of loss an athlete feels when injured can be very similar to the other types of mourning or grief that occur in our lives,” says Diane Wiese-Bjornstal, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and a leading researcher of injury psychology. “It’s a huge sense of loss that you feel.”

From the casual weekend jogger to the race-ready long-distance runner, maintaining adequate foot and ankle health can go a long way to keep you from experiencing this sense of loss Dr. Wiese-Bjornstal speaks of. By keeping your feet in tip-top shape and staying aware of common foot problems experienced by runners, you won’t even have to imagine a world without your weekly runs!

As a runner, you are more susceptible to injuries in the feet and ankles. Why? Because they’re tasked with so much of the hard work. They pound the pavement, propel you forward, and rack up the miles. Because of this, it’s important to stay alert about certain foot problems. Otherwise, you may hit the brakes on running sooner than you’d like.

Let’s chat about 4 common foot and ankle running injuries and what you can do to avoid them:

1. Injuries to the ball of the foot

If you’re experiencing pain in this area of the foot, you may have what’s known as a neuroma, or a pinched nerve right between your toes. The pain below your toes may also be caused by inflammation of the teeny-tiny joints that connect your foot bones to your toe bones. For runners, these injuries may cause a burning sensation, loss of feeling, or severe pain. If you start to notice any of these symptoms in the ball of your foot:

  • Check out your footwear. Flexible shoes might be the culprit. Consider switching to a sturdier pair with plenty of arch support.
  • Consult a foot & ankle specialist to see if orthotics or injections may be right for you.

2. Injuries to the heel

This is the most common runner’s affliction we see at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle and it is most often caused by ligament inflammation. You see, the ligament that holds up your arch can become inflamed. This leads to plantar fasciitis, a condition which the National Center for Biotechnology Information notes, affects 1 in 10 people and is most common among young male athletes. If you start to notice heel pain:

  • Make stretching a part of your daily routine.
  • Invest in good arch support.
  • If the problem persists, ice the area and take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory.

3. Injuries to the Achilles tendon

As a runner, your Achilles tendon, and other tendons in the ankle and foot may experience tendonitis. This is often a wake-up call for a runner that they have been pushing too hard. You may experience tendonitis when you’re racking up more miles than you can handle. Beginners beware! And listen to your body. If you’re experiencing tendon pain in your Achilles or elsewhere:

  • Take a break and rest the affected area.
  • During your self-prescribed rest time do some gentle stretching and icing. Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories to help manage the injury.
  • However, if the pain persists, visit your local specialist for a consult and professional physical therapy.

4. Stress fractures

Finally, many runners are under the assumption that if they can walk on an injury, a break is off the table. And this just isn’t the case. Stress fractures are a common injury we see in our running clients and often the symptoms are slow to show. A stress fracture may not result in immediate pain or swelling. However, if an impact is great enough that you believe a stress fracture could be possible:

  • Deploy Operation R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) immediately.
  • If pain or swelling are still present after a few days, check with a foot & ankle specialist for x-rays and diagnosis.

Don’t let these common running injuries keep you sidelined. Contact Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle today and schedule a consultation.