Running your first marathon is a thrilling accomplishment, but the training can involve unexpected aches and pains to your joints, tendons, and muscles.
The doctors on JustAnswer frequently address marathon-related injuries. In the first of this two-part series, we focus on foot injuries. Below are two common foot ailments described by runners in training, followed by information and tips from the doctors.
Soreness in ball of the foot (metatarsalgia)
“After running for 50 minutes I get a burning pain under the left side ball of my foot, which makes it difficult for me to keep running. I have changed my shoes and tried innersoles, but nothing has helped.”
Dr. Abby: What you described is most likely metatarsalgia, a condition that is common in runners.
Two things should be ruled out: The first is a stress fracture (a tiny break in one of the bones in your foot) by an X-ray. The second is a Morton’s neuroma, which is a thickening of nerve tissue that can develop between the bones of the foot.
The treatment for metatarsalgia includes icing the area, insoles, arch supports if you need them, avoidance of aggravating activities, and metatarsal pads placed right under the area of pain. It appears you may not have tried the metatarsal pads — these should be available at your local pharmacy.
If nothing else is helping, I would see a podiatrist for further treatment and evaluation, or an orthopedist who specializes in foot and ankle.
Pain in the heel (plantar fasciitis)
“I believe I have plantar fasciitis. It seems like a lot of middle-aged people have this condition. Why does it occur in people my age and what, if anything, can be done about this without drugs or surgery?”
Dr. Charles: Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the thick connective tissue on the sole of your foot that attaches to the heel. The pain is usually felt at the bottom of your heel.
Being overweight is one of the most common causes of plantar fasciitis. Other causes: Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament; tight calf muscles can lead to prolonged and/or high velocity pronation of the foot. Another common cause of plantar fasciitis is arthritis.
Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen), heel stretching exercises, and heel inserts. Take a few days off from prolonged standing to try to rest the painful foot. Night splints can be worn to keep the heel stretched out when you sleep. They prevent the arch of the foot from becoming contracted at night, and is hopefully not as painful in the morning.
Additional treatment may consist of a number of physical therapies, such as diathermy, ultrasound waves, and whirlpool baths. Medications may be prescribed by your doctor accordingly.
Next in Part 2: What you can do about shin splints and knee pain.
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