Runners: Fit Feet Finish Faster

Foot and ankle surgeons offer injury prevention tips for Austin Marathon runners

Chicago, January 15, 2016 - Both marathon runners and casual joggers can improve their performance by keeping their feet in top condition and taking steps to control foot problems common in runners, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS).

For runners, the feet are vulnerable to injury, and these athletes should be on the alert for signs of foot problems that can slow them down if not treated promptly.

Heel Pain
The most common complaint from runners is heel pain caused by inflammation of the ligament that holds up the arch, a condition known as plantar fasciitis.

According to foot and ankle surgeons, in athletes, heel pain can result from faulty mechanics and overpronation in which pressure is unequally applied to the inside of the foot. It also can be caused by wearing running shoes that are worn out or too soft.

At the first sign of heel pain, foot and ankle surgeons advise runners to do stretching exercises, wear sturdier shoes and use arch supports. In some cases, icing and anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, are helpful. Should heel pain continue, custom orthotics, injections and physical therapy might be required.

Neuromas are another other common foot problem that affects runners. A neuroma is a pinched nerve between the toes that can cause pain, numbness and a burning sensation in the ball of the foot. Overly flexible shoes often are the cause, and padding, orthotics or injections usually are effective.

Serious runners can be sidelined with tendonitis if they ignore the warning signs of this overuse-related condition. Foot and ankle surgeons explain there are several forms of tendonitis that affect the Achilles and other areas, and all are treated with rest, icing, stretching and anti-inflammatory medications, and sometimes with orthotics and physical therapy. Overzealous training usually causes tendonitis, especially among beginners who try to do too much too soon.

Broken Bones?
A common myth among athletes, according to foot and ankle surgeons, is that it's not possible to walk or run if a bone in the foot is fractured. Often physicians hear from patients, "It can't be broken, I can walk on it." Don't believe this common myth. Stress fractures can occur in the foot and be slow to show symptoms, such as pain and swelling.

If a fracture or sprain is suspected, runners should remember the word RICE as an abbreviation for Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation. Should pain and swelling continue after following this procedure for three or four days, you should see a foot and ankle surgeon for an x-ray and proper diagnosis.

In honor of the Austin Marathon, ACFAS has created a quick-reference infographic for runners on preventing common foot and ankle injuries. Foot and ankle surgeons from ACFAS will be on hand at the Finish Line of the Austin Marathon on February 14 to offer ice packs for runners as they complete their runs.