Sports & Exercise

9 Really Painful Toe and Foot Injuries from Running

Running is a fantastic way to keep fit. But, as many enthusiastic runners will know, it can cause problems with your feet, toes, and nails.

Foot and toe injuries can be incredibly painful and inhibit your exercise routines. Niggly injuries will often mean you cannot run as much as you want to. Sometimes, you might have to stop running entirely until you make a full recovery.

We will take a look at the most uncomfortable foot and toe injuries. By being aware of these problems, you are more likely to spot the signs and take action immediately. In doing so, you will reduce the amount of downtime in which you are unable to run.

Common Reasons for Foot Pain After Running

If you experience big toe pain, pain between toes, or base of foot pain, this is typically a sign that something is not right. As soon as you start feeling any discomfort at all, whether while running or afterward, please don’t ignore it!

The truth is that sometimes a minor problem can become worse when you don’t do anything. A condition that is relatively minor that only takes days to heal could turn into a significant problem that can keep you sidelined for weeks.

The same is true if you notice abnormal sensations in your feet, such as burning or tingling feet after running.

1) Toe Corns

They are not particularly severe, but they’re not pleasant either. The can be quite painful and make walking uncomfortable.

Corns occur where the skin on your toe becomes thicker. This can then become inflamed and hurt. The irony is that although these are unpleasant, they are a form of protection. Your body produces the skin tougher to protect your toe from rubbing.

When you get corns on your toes, it’s usually a sign that you either need new running shoes or to protect your toes against the fabric of your footwear until you bed them in.

What Are the Symptoms?

You will usually first notice toe corns due to the pain that it causes. It is not severe, but it can be an irritation at first. If you do not do anything about it, the discomfort can get worse.

What Are the Causes?

Corns are especially common when you are wearing shoes that are too tight. However, it could also be a problem caused by walking shoes or your everyday footwear especially if you do a lot of walking.

Where there is too much pressure put on the toes, this can become a cause of friction. When this happens, the skin will start to harden.

You might also suffer from toe corns if you wear shoes that are too loose. In this case, what might happen is that your toes rub together, and this can lead to corns. People that have toes or feet that have an unusual shape are at more at risk of toe corns forming.

What Are the Treatments?

When you have toe corns, you need to fight the cause. This often means changing your running shoes if they are too large or too small.

This can help to reduce the pressure on your toes and stop the corns from getting worse.

You might also want to use a corn cushion. This helps to distribute the pressure more evenly around your foot. It has the same effect of stopping the corns from getting worse.

If you have corns between your toes, strap cotton wool between them. This will stop them from rubbing against each other.

To treat the corns themselves, soak the areas of hard skin in warm water. Then use a pumice stone to rub away the hard skin once the water has softened it up. You could also use a corn trimmer for the same purpose.

To prevent corns from reoccurring, wear shoes that are specifically designed for running as they are made from flexible material that will mold into the shape of your foot while also providing security and space to accommodate all your toes.

You should also ensure your shoes have superior support for your feet. And once you buy running shoes, make sure you wear them for a while to break them in slowly before doing any long hikes.

2) Black Toenails

If you notice that one of your toenails are turning black, this could indicate various problems. This is a widespread issue for runners. It might be nothing to worry about, but it could also be an indication of something more serious.

What Are the Symptoms?

The primary symptom is a darkening toenail, but much depends on the reason for the discoloration.

However, sometimes the symptoms can be significantly worse. They can even cause the toenail to detach from the nail plate. You might also notice redness around the nail, and possibly itching.

What Are the Causes?

Trauma is one of the most common reasons for a black toenail. Despite the pain, you will experience, a nail trauma is usually one of the least severe problems In runners, a black toenail is generally caused by the toes continually coming into contact with the end of the shoe.

This leads to bleeding or bruising underneath the nail. It is a relatively common complaint among long-distance and marathon runners. Footwear is nearly always to blame, but it can also occur if you stubbed your toe in some way.

Another common cause is a fungal infection of the toenail. You’ll typically start with a yellow toenail fungus, but the condition will worsen over time if left untreated. Of course, your nail may have turned black because you haven’t noticed it to this point.

The most serious condition is skin cancer (melanoma). This can grow underneath the nail bed. It usually grows slowly, and it might be painless, making it quite hard to spot. If you have discoloration that goes onto the cuticle, this could be a sign. You should get it checked out by a podiatrist.

stiff feet after running

What Are the Treatments?

Treatment for black toenails depends on the cause and the severity of the problem. If it is caused by trauma, then resting your feet is often the best treatment. You might also want to switch to different shoes if they do not fit you properly. Of course, you can use a shoe stretcher to add space to synthetic footwear.

If you have a type of fungus growing under your nail, it won’t go away unless you take action. It’ll just gradually worsen. Some people have a fungal infection of the nail for years. That’s why you need to use a proven over the counter toenail fungus treatment.

If there are signs of inflammation, get it checked out. If there is red skin, inflammation, or oozing, this could mean an infection. This is usually quite simple to treat, however, using medication.

3) Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is not particularly dangerous, but it can be painful. It will almost certainly get in the way of your running routine, and it makes the sole of your foot very sensitive to the touch.

The condition is caused by damage to the plantar fascia. This is the connective tissue that goes from your toes to your heel. It is made of collagen. When this becomes damaged, it is referred to as plantar fasciitis.

What Are the Symptoms?

Plantar fasciitis is first noticed by the presence of pain in your foot. Burning foot pain is often felt as a sharp pain or a deeper ache in your heel or along the arch of your foot.

You might first experience this by feeling pain first thing in the morning. This is because your foot has been in a contracted position while you sleep, and then stretches out in the morning.

However, after a short while, the pain usually subsides. You might not feel it again until the next morning. However, you probably will feel it when you go running because of the impact on your feet.

What Are the Causes?

The most common cause is a sudden increase in your activity. This could happen if you have just started running and your body is not used to the pressure you are putting your feet under.

However, experienced runners are not immune. Perhaps you are training for a marathon for example, and you are putting your feet under more pressure than average. Running too much on the treadmill can also cause problems.

Another cause is if you are doing more hill running than usual. This puts your feet under pressures they may not be accustomed to.

Stress to the plantar fascia through overuse can lead to tears that cause painful episodes. Tight calf muscles can also create a problem. If your calf muscles are not properly stretched, this can put more pressure on the plantar fascia and lead to damage.

Sometimes the condition is more common due to the shape of your feet. If you have flat feet, for example, or you have high arches or too much pronation, these can also increase the risk.

Another common cause is if you wear high heels during the day and then switch to running shoes.

What Are the Treatments?

Plantar fasciitis can be tricky to solve. It often starts as an annoying pain but then gets worse. The longer you leave it, the longer it takes to heal – sometimes months. This is because your feet are not getting the benefit of a good supply of blood.

You will usually need to reduce the swelling first. Ice packs help. Alternatively, put your foot into an ice bucket for a few minutes each day.

You might also want to change your shoes. This could be your running shoes as well as your everyday shoes. Try to find shoes that fit correctly and provide excellent arch support.

Stretching your arches can also help to loosen them up and speed up the healing process.

If the pain persists, make sure you see your doctor. They might recommend physiotherapy or shock-wave therapy.

And always give your foot plenty of rest. Taking a break from running for a while will speed up the recovery process and get you back on the track sooner. Here are some ways to manage a flare-up of plantar fasciitis.

4) Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia refers to pain that is felt in the forefoot, which is also called the ball of the foot pain. Feet have a lot of bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments.

What Are the Symptoms?

The primary symptom is the pain in the ball of the foot. This can be felt at any time, but it usually more common when walking or running. It might also feel like the top of foot pain on occasion.

When resting, you will usually not feel it so much, but it is still possible to feel pain.

The pain can start mild, but it might get worse over time. It might get to the point where you even struggle to walk.

What Are the Causes?

Metatarsalgia could be caused by various problems such as:

  • Stress fractures
  • Calluses
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Irritation and swelling in the joint
  • Neuromas

If you have too much foot pronation, this can also make you more likely to suffer from metatarsalgia. High arches or flat feet can also both can increase the risk.

What Are the Treatments?

Rest will be needed. Walk as little as possible and stop running. If you keep running, this will prevent the pain from subsiding.

Hot and cold treatment is also recommended. Start with cold treatment by using an ice pack. However, if it does not get better, use heat as well. Ibuprofen can also help reduce inflammation.

You should also make an effort to prevent it from returning. The best way to do this is to wear running shoes that fit correctly and provide enough space in the toe area.

Another preventative strategy is to stretch your calf muscles regularly. This can help to reduce pressure on the forefoot.

top of foot pain

5) Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s Neuroma is a painful condition that also affects the ball of the foot. It occurs when the tissue around a nerve leading to your toe thickens, and it can be a common condition for runners.

What Are the Symptoms?

Morton’s Neuroma often affects the area between your third and fourth toes on your foot. Sometimes it can almost feel as though you are standing on a stone that has become lodged in this position.

It often feels like a sharp pain in the ball of your foot, but it can also feel like burning feet pain. As well as feeling pain in the foot, you may also feel pain in your toes. Middle-toe pain is quite typical of this condition.

Another possible symptom that you might feel is numbness in the toes or the ball of your foot.

Despite the pain that accompanies Morton’s Neuroma, there is often no physical sign of any problems on the outside. For example, you won’t typically find a lump, and the problem is all internal.

What Are the Causes?

If you suffer from middle-toe pain, it could be due to these:

Wearing high-heeled shoes can put pressure on the ball of your foot and increase your chances of suffering from it.

Pressure on the foot or irritation can cause injury to a nerve.

Running and other high-impact sports can cause repetitive trauma that makes it more likely.

You might suffer from deformities in the foot, such as bunions, flat feet or high arches.

What Are the Treatments?

Usually, the first type of treatment will be arch supports and foot pads to take pressure off the nerves. You will probably also need to rest your foot as much as possible, so give running a break.

If you wear high heels, the first thing to do is to stop wearing them. Lower-heeled shoes are better for your feet.

Also, find a pair of shoes that have a wide area for your toes so that they are not cramped together.

You might be recommended corticosteroid injections if the pain is severe, but your doctor will decide whether these are needed. In more extreme cases you might need to undergo decompression surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve.

6) Stress Fracture

A stress fracture is one of the worst things a runner can get. If you get one of these, you will usually have to stop running for over a month, which can be very frustrating.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a stress fracture is a small crack in the bone that does not go right the way through. It can be excruciating.

What Are the Symptoms?

Stress fractures often occur in the tibia, which is the shin bone, but the next most common place is the metatarsals in the foot.

They tend to be quite gradual, so they might not start off as particularly painful. However, over time they can get worse.

They might be felt as a shin splint at first. You might only feel any pain the day after a long run. And while it can start as a shin splint or top of foot pain, it can soon turn into a more serious fracture.

What Are the Causes?

The leading cause of stress fractures is repetitive stress on a bone in the leg or foot. This is why runners often suffer from them.

It could also be due to a weakness in the bone or weak muscles that are not flexible enough.

If you are overtraining or trying to do too much without building up to it properly, this could increase the chances that you will suffer from a stress fracture.

Running on hard surfaces too much as well as wearing badly fitting shoes can increase the risk too.

Also, if you have a lack of calcium in your diet, this may make you more likely to be affected by a stress fracture. Osteoporosis also makes you more likely to be affected.

What Are the Treatments?

If you suspect a stress fracture, always see your doctor so they can diagnose it. Often, the stress fracture will not show up on an x-ray, so it can be hard to diagnose. You might, therefore, need a bone scan or MRI scan instead.

You need to let the bone heal, and this means lots of rest—usually up to six weeks or so. Some bones must be left immobile to heal.

Don’t run on your stress fracture. And once it is better, get some new running shoes if yours are old or don’t fit properly.

7) Sesamoiditis

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, sesamoiditis is a fairly common condition that affects the ball of the foot. The pain occurs where the small sesamoid bones, which are located in the tendons underneath the big toe, become inflamed.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sesamoiditis usually starts to cause pain in a gradual way, so it is unlikely that you will wake up one day in lots of pain.

The discomfort occurs within the joint of the big toe, where the sesamoids are located. The pain first appears as a mild ache that might provide nothing more than discomfort. As such, it is easy to ignore, and you might hope that it will go away.

However, over time, if it is left untreated, it will usually become worse. The pain can become quite intense after a while, preventing you from walking or running properly.

What Are the Causes?

The leading causes of sesamoiditis include:

  • High-impact activities with repetitive actions like running, sprinting and dancing.
  • Walking long distances.
  • Badly-fitting shoes, especially shoes with narrow ends.
  • Your foot type can also make you more likely to suffer from sesamoiditis.
  • If you have bony feet or high arches, this can increase your chances of getting it.
  • You run on the ball of your foot.

What Are the Treatments?

Sesamoiditis requires lots of rest to start with when you are trying to heal it. Activity makes it worse, so stop all running and only walk as much as you need to.

You might want to take anti-inflammatory drugs, like ibuprofen, to help reduce swelling. It will also numb the pain too.

Ice treatment can be beneficial. Take an ice pack and apply the cold treatment to the affected area a few times a day, 15-20 minutes on, 15-20 minutes off.

You might also want to use orthotics in your foot to take pressure off the sesamoids.

A steroid injection might also be used to reduce the pain and inflammation in the area.

Surgery is possible, but this is usually a last resort. Surgery involves removing the sesamoid bone if it has become damaged.

ball of foot pain

8) Athlete’s Foot

This is a term for inflammatory skin disease in the foot and is common in people from all walks of life. The medical term is tinea pedis.

What Are the Symptoms?

Various symptoms are associated with athlete’s foot:

  • Blistering and soreness in the soles of the feet.
  • Soreness between the toes
  • Blisters
  • Itchiness and redness
  • A scaly appearance
  • Raw appearance in the skin
  • Weeping and oozing skin

What Are the Causes?

Athlete’s Foot is usually caused by a fungus. It mainly affects the foot, but it can also spread to the toes.

Despite being caused by a fungus most of the time, it can also be caused by other things like:

  • Psoriasis
  • A bacterial infection
  • Pompholyx

Athlete’s foot is usually caused by wearing shoes that make your feet sweat. You can also pick it up from other people in public bathrooms, showers, swimming pools, locker rooms, together with towels or socks that are contaminated.

Wearing enclosed shoes that are warm and moist can also provide the fungus with the conditions it needs to thrive.

What Are the Treatments?

Caused by a fungal infection, athlete’s foot can be treated with an antifungal medication. This can usually be bought as an over-the-counter solution, and it will often heal the condition in a few days.

You will also have to look after your feet during and after treatment. Keep them dry, wear antifungal socks, and make sure you are using a good pair of breathable shoes.

9) Bunions

They consist of hard lumps on the side of the feet, and they are not easy to treat.

What Are the Symptoms?

Bunions consist of bony lumps on the side of the feet next to the big toes. You will typically notice them by sight, and you may see that your big toe points toward the other toes.

You might also experience red, swollen skin on the site of the lump that looks like blisters. Pain on the side or the bottom of the feet is also common. The pain tends to be worse when you are active.

What Are the Causes?

There is no specific known cause of bunions. They may be more likely in people who wear shoes that do not fit properly, however, so always wear shoes that provide enough room for your toes.

Also, it’s probably a good idea to avoid high heels, as these might also increase the risk of bunions developing.

What Are the Treatments?

Unfortunately, surgery is the only way to remove bunions completely. But, you can help to manage your bunions and relieve the pain.

  • Wear shoes that are wide enough for your toes.
  • Do not wear high heels.
  • Hold an ice pack to the bunion for a few minutes a day to soothe it.
  • Use bunion pads, which are soft pads that go into the shoes to stop your shoes rubbing the bunion.
  • Take ibuprofen to help reduce inflammation.

If you still feel pain after trying to relieve the pain yourself, visit your doctor.

If you are a keen runner, there is a chance that you may experience one of these conditions at some point in your life. If you ever do start to feel pain or notice something wrong with your feet, make sure you take swift action.

If you delay treatment, you may find that you are prevented from running for longer.