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Most Common Marathon Running Injuries –Generalized Foot Pain from Running

Updated on August 29, 2010

Right around the beginning of the year people look to get in shape; be it going to the gym or running.  One particular lofty goal that people get into is running a marathon.  It’s very difficult for the body to go from being a couch potato to a marathon runner.  One of the biggest problems that most first time marathon runners have is starting out too hard.  Even veteran marathon runners can develop running injuries in the first few months.  In either case, your body just isn’t ready to take the punishment that you give it. 

Below we discuss the marathon training injury of generalized foot pain from running, some symptoms, what you can do to prevent it and how you can treat this running injury.  While this is no substitute for medical advice, it will give you an idea of your problem and point you in the right direction towards recovery.  As with any serious pain, it’s important to seek medical attention.

Next to plantar fasciitis, the second most common running injury is foot pain. Now this is a fairly broad term that can cover a lot of different maladies. The reason that this is so broad is because the foot of the human body has over a third of the total bones in the body and over 100 different muscles, tendons and ligaments. That’s a lot of stuff that can go wrong.

The types of foot pain can be categorized into four basic problems: muscle pull, tendonitis, torn ligament, and bone fracture. Any one of these can produce anything from a dull ache to a sharp pain in the foot. When self-diagnosing your foot pain, pay special attention to what type of pain (dull, sharp, stinging, broad), the location of the pain, and what movements make the pain worse.

We’ll start with muscle pull. There are approximately 20 different muscles that make up the foot. With muscle pulls (or strains) the muscle is being torn or stretched past its limit. The way to tell if you’ve pulled a muscle in your foot is if you happen to have an “oh shit” moment; that moment when you stepped off the road and you rolled your ankle, or you stepped on something awkward. These moments are very obvious and usually don’t happen too much to the muscles of the foot. If this does happen you’ll notice a swelling of the foot once you remove your shoe (the shoe prevents swelling) as your muscle fills with fluid. Pulled muscles can usually be treated with icing (10 minutes on 1 hour off) and liberal doses of advil (or other NSAIDs).

The next type of foot pain is tendonitis. Tendons are strong fibrous tissues whose job is to connect muscle to the bone. Tendonitis occurs when the tendons become inflamed and begin to rub on things they shouldn’t. The most common cause of tendonitis is through overuse and repetitive stress. This can be avoided by properly warming up and stretching and by developing a solid but gradual workout program so that your body has time to rest and get used to this new beating. Treating tendonitis can include icing it (as described above), taking Advil, and staying off of your feet. The healing time of tendonitis will depend on how bad it’s injured, but minor cases will usually heal any where from 2-3 weeks.

Next we’ll discuss torn ligaments as a source of foot pain. Ligament damage can range from a mere stretching to a severe sprain (torn ligament). If you have torn a ligament (moderate to severe sprain) it will be swollen and very tender to walk on. The swelling for a torn ligament will last for few weeks even if the pain has gone away. You can treat a torn ligament by icing and advil but make sure to take several weeks off (going to your doctor would be a good idea too). You will need to carefully rehab the injury to regain flexibility.

Finally, the last injury is bone fractures. While there are several different types of fractures out there, the only one you would really get from running is a hairline or stress fracture. They normally occur in the metatarsal (toe bones). These are very small fractures in the bone sometimes not even completely going through the entire bone. The only way to tell if you’ve fractured a bone is to go to the doctors and get an x-ray. They’ll easily be able to tell if you’ve fractured your foot. Stress fractures will heal on their own but require a lot of time; anywhere from 2-7 weeks you’ll be off from running. In the mean time you can apply ice and advil to relieve the pain.

If you suffer any of the above injuries it’s important to take time off to make sure the foot heals properly. You can try to substitute running with other exercises that don’t put as much or any strain on the injured foot (such as biking or swimming). It’s important to take foot injuries seriously and to do adequate research to ensure that you’re not going to prolong the injury any longer. The internet offers some innovative treatment offers, just make sure to research the product carefully.

Other Running Injuries

Most Common Marathon Running Injuries - Plantar Fasciitis  - A guide to plantar fasciitis, the number on running injury.  Describes symptoms and treatments.

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