Is Foot Pain Sidelining You? Here’s What You Can Do About It
Causes Of Foot Pain: The foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and over a hundred muscles. In other words: lots to go wrong. And when something goes wrong, life sucks. Especially for the active guy. Running is out. Even cycling can be hard. Walking hurts. If your job requires standing, then that’s a major problem. Like to lift weights? How will you manage squats and deadlifts, or even lunges?
When your feet hurt, all you wish for is some pain relief.
The following isn’t meant to replace medical advice from a licensed physician. But since it’s targeted at men who often say “I don’t need a doctor” then perhaps, if it’s not a major issue, a quick internet article will suffice. Here are some common causes of foot pain and basic things you can do to alleviate them.
1. Plantar Fasciitis
We’re starting with this one because it’s one of the most common. If you have pain in the bottom of your heel, and especially experience pain upon waking, then chances are, this is the cause.
It’s a highly complex condition with numerous potential causes and a variety of treatment options. There is a reasonable chance that it is mostly due to a level of usage you weren’t properly adapted to and rest will alleviate it. Although I run a great deal, it wasn’t until a three-week trip to Europe, when I found myself walking five hours a day (plus my usual running), that I suddenly developed this condition, and I’ve had to stay off my feet as much as possible to recover. I can tell you, I hate this.
Beyond that, tight calf muscles can also be a culprit and using a variety of stretching techniques for the calves can be beneficial. One I’ve found particularly useful involves using a towel over the ball of your foot and using it to pull your toes towards you. Hold for about 20 seconds then rest for several seconds, then repeat a few more times.
Ice can help a little, and won’t hurt, but it is debatable as to how much plantar fasciitis is an inflammation problem, so the relief will be temporary. You can try things like ibuprofen, but again, due to it possibly having little to do with inflammation it may not be helpful, and painkillers are always worth avoiding if they’re not providing much benefit. Rolling your heel on a hard surface such as a lacrosse ball can also provide temporary relief. Overall, however, you’re just going to have to ease off the activity as much as possible to give your heel a chance to recuperate on its own. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to consult with a specialist. Special orthotics or other treatment options may be necessary.
2. Your Shoes Suck
As much as I would like to, I won’t make any fashion crime comments. There are plenty of biomechanical reasons that flip flops are the worst. Wear them in the locker room if you must, but as a regular piece of footwear, flip flops lack arch support — they’re much too flat — and this can lead to pain.
Worn out athletic shoes can be a problem as well. Those running and weightlifting shoes do need regular replacing, because their shock absorption will only last for so long. What’s more, if they wear around the edges due to your unique walking / running pattern, this can be accentuated as you begin to collapse more in that direction, leading to more than just foot pain, but pain all the way up your body.
And there are also the stylish shoes. Are they cramming your toes into a point, hard as a rock, or pinching your heel? If yes, it’s a “Well, duh!” that these are going to create problems for your feet.
The solution is simple. Ditch them. Replace such footwear with something that is far more foot-friendly (and fashionable).
3. Too Much High-Impact
Been doing a lot of high-impact activities like ridiculously high box jumps, or showing off your basketball dunk, or perhaps working on your parkour? Anything that involves your feet repeatedly crashing into a hard surface is likely to do damage to the ball of the foot. The medical term is Metatarsalgia, more commonly referred to as a “stone bruise.”
If you’re experiencing this you’ll want to ease off the activity that caused the problem, and avoid being barefoot or just wearing socks as much as possible. Rather, you will want to wear something with an extra soft cushioning insole as much as possible in order to be gentle with the area to give it time to heal. Icing can also be beneficial, as can elevating the foot and careful usage of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication.
If this doesn’t alleviate the problem, you may need to seek professional help to rule out a deeper problem such as a fracture.
4. Fallen Arches
There is an easy test for this: Get your feet wet then stand on a surface such as a cement sidewalk that will reveal your footprint and step away. If you can see a complete imprint of the bottom of your foot, I have bad news for you.
That news is: You need to see a doctor to discuss treatment options.
5. Achilles Tendonitis
Like plantar fasciitis, this is another overuse injury that responds best to rest. If you know your Greek mythology you’ll recall that this is the tendon that runs along the back of the foot, connecting it to the calf muscles.
The pain presents mostly in the back of the heel. The treatment for minor flare-ups is similar to that of plantar fasciitis: stretching of the calf muscles, ice, and possible (cautious) use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.
A stretch that can specifically target the Achilles tendon involves doing a traditional wall stretch (both hands on wall with problem leg back and heel on the ground), but gently moving the stretch further down the calf towards the heel by bending the knee slowly towards the floor while still keeping the heel planted. You should feel the stretch move more into the Achilles region. Ease in rather than forcing it.
Overall, the body can take a lot if you give it time to adapt. An “overuse injury” is usually the result of a lack of adaptation. You pushed it too hard, too soon. Humans can increase their endurance and tolerance for movement and impact, but not all in the first week. Your feet need time to adapt to any new level of activity or intensity, so choose a rational path and you’ll be less likely to end up sidelined.
And if you are sidelined, don’t push through the pain or you’ll only make it worse. Ease off, and go back gently a wiser man.