Typically, when we runners finish our runs, we feel like a million bucks. The endorphins are flowing, the sweat is dripping off our faces, and we feel totally invincible like there’s nothing that we can’t do or no goal that we can’t accomplish.
Unfortunately, sometimes this idyllic scene doesn’t quite play out. In fact, sometimes, at the end of our runs, arguably the most important body part for us runners — our feet — throb.
Before you completely lose your mind and panic over the discomfort you may be feeling stemming from your feet, take heart. Foot pain, or any sort of foot discomfort, you may feel after a run can mean all types of things. Below, we’ll talk in detail about why you might feel discomfort or foot pain after you finish running and what you can do to rectify your dilemma.
Shoes & Comfort
Your shoes may be fitting improperly. This is super obvious, but when you’re panicking about why your feet are hurting, sometimes the obvious answer isn’t always that obvious. For many runners, myself included, they wear running shoes that are anywhere from a half-size to a whole-size bigger than they normally wear in non-running shoes. The reason? Our feet swell when we run. If your shoes don’t fit you very well, the end result may be foot discomfort or pain during or post-run. It’s like in Disney’s Cinderella movie when the evil stepsisters try to cram their too-big feet into Cinderella’s tiny glass slipper; when our feet don’t fit into our running shoes very well, especially when we try to force them into them, the end result isn’t pleasant.
Fortunately, it’s a pretty straightforward fix: just simply find shoes that fit your feet better, and consider sizing up to be safe.
You could have a blister (or blisters, plural). When our running shoes don’t fit us very well, our feet often pay the price, and a common form of “payment” is the ugly and rather unpleasant blister (or blisters, plural). Blisters come about primarily due to friction and moisture. If your shoes don’t fit your feet very well — or if you have “hot spots” in your shoes that rub on certain parts of your feet — you may experience blisters and thus, a lot of discomfort during or post-run. Additionally, moisture (in the form of sweat) that gets trapped in our shoes and socks while we run can build up, and when sweat gets trapped in our socks and rubs against our shoes and our feet, it can result in blisters.
Lucky for you, the fix is pretty simple: avoid wearing cotton socks, invest in socks that will wick away sweat while you’re running, and even consider applying lubricant to your feet (like Body Glide or Vaseline) to help ward off “hot spots.”
PF – Plantar Fasciitis
You may have plantar fasciitis (PF). Foot discomfort after a run may also mean that it’s something more muscularly-related and less about your shoes or your socks. Our plantar fascia is the thick band of tissue that makes up a large portion of the soles of our feet, and the fascia can get irritated and aggravated, just like any other component to our body. PF is a common running-related ailment and can be attributed to anything from overuse to muscular imbalances, such as ones stemming from tight calf or tibia muscles.
Unfortunately, while PF is really common, it can be really annoying and cumbersome to try to treat. Some runners have really bad cases of PF, so bad that it can result in being booted for weeks and being forbidden from running, while others may only have a slight annoyance from their PF. One tell-tale sign of PF is feeling a tingling or tight sensation in your feet as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, right when your feet hit the floor.
Remedies to try to treat PF are broad and really depend on the severity of the individual runner’s case. I’d highly recommend talking to a physical therapist or a sports medicine physician to get an accurate assessment regarding your case. It may just be a matter of taking a little time off from running to help restore things back to normal, or it may require other types of intervention, such as physical therapy sessions, applying athletic tape to your feet, or even wearing certain foot braces or compression socks at night. Again: the solution protocol will directly depend on the individual runner’s severity and condition of PF.
You’ve got muscular imbalances elsewhere. Finally, if you’re feeling foot pain or discomfort after a run, it may be a result of a muscular imbalance somewhere else that’s manifesting in your feet. For example, your feet may be hurting because you have really tight calves or Achilles and you may be unknowingly compensating, throwing off your gait in the process.
The fix here isn’t super straightforward either, unfortunately, so I’d really recommend that you get a consultation from a sports medicine or physical therapy provider to make a better assessment of your condition. It may take someone watching you run and judging your form to determine where your imbalances lie and why they’re manifesting in your feet, but I think it’s an investment worth making (particularly if you want to run pain-free).
While foot pain or discomfort can be more of an annoyance than a malady, it can also indicate a larger, more nefarious issue at play, such as a stress fracture. Runners tend to be attentive to their bodily feedback, so definitely remember to listen to your body during and after each run to determine if something feels “off.”
Don’t Wait! Get to the Root of the Pain
I implore you to stay ahead of the game and don’t wait until things get really uncomfortable or intolerable before you go see a professional get a diagnosis. Think of it like this: even if your foot pain necessitates that you take off a few days or weeks now, doing so now will help ensure that you’ll be able to run as long and hard as you want weeks from now, without pause or interruption due to injury. It’s best to nip these things in the bud, as much as we can, anyway, before they become something major and full-blown.