Whether you’re a seasoned marathon runner or the new kid on the block, you’ll no doubt know that pain is a part of running.
One of the things that can really start to hurt on a run is your feet. It’s understandable. After all, your feet soak up all the impact generated by running. They go through a lot!
Perhaps the most recognizable foot pain experienced by runners is a hot burning sensation. This can appear in the ball of the foot, the arch, between the toes, or across the whole sole.
Depending on the location and the precise nature of the pain, this burning sensation could indicate a number of different conditions.
We’re going to talk you through the possible causes and also give you some advice for dealing with the pain. That way, you can get back to your run without the agony!
The location of the burning sensation helps determine the cause of the problem.
Between the toes
If you suffer from a burning sensation between your toes, it’s probably a fungal infection called athlete’s foot.
Athlete’s foot is characterized by dry scaly skin between the toes. It can, if untreated, spread to the sides of your feet and your toenails.
As a fungal infection, athlete’s foot thrives in warm, moist places like your running shoes. It can also be picked up from changing room floors if someone else with the condition has walked barefoot.
Ball of the foot
A burning pain across the ball of your foot is often a sign of a condition called Morton’s neuralgia. This is especially true if the pain worsens when you put pressure on the foot.
Essentially, this condition occurs when a nerve in your foot is damaged or inflamed. This can happen because of the stress running places on your feet or because of pressure from ill-fitting shoes.
Another cause of burning pain on the ball of your feet is friction. If your feet are slipping back and forth in your shoes then they will rub against your socks and the shoes. This causes lots of friction and which can damage or remove some of the skin.
If you have a burning pain in the arch of your foot, it is generally a sign that you’ve overdone things.
A soft tissue called the plantar fascia runs along the base of your arch. If the pain starts when you stand up after a rest, you may have inflamed the plantar fascia.
This generally happens when you push yourself too hard too quickly. The plantar fascia doesn’t have time to acclimatize to the stress of your running.
If your pain occurs during the run then it might be tendonitis. This happens when the tendons supporting your arch become swollen and inflamed from running.
A burning pain in your heel is generally either caused by inflammation to your plantar fascia or your Achilles tendon. Both of these radiate down to your heel.
You may also get a burning sensation in your heel from poorly fitting shoes. This pain is caused by friction between your foot and the sock or shoe.
If the pain is less localized and affects the whole foot, it could be a sign of a more serious condition called peripheral neuropathy. This is when the nerves in your extremities, like your feet, are damaged due to injury or illness.
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of peripheral neuropathy. It can also be caused by hypothyroidism, vitamin B12 deficiency, or physical injury to the foot.
Your treatment will depend on what is causing the burning sensation.
While we stand by the advice given in this article, it’s important to seek medical help for persistent pain in your feet.
One of the first things you can do to relieve burning pain in your feet is to check your shoes.
Poorly fitting shoes can cause blisters and friction pain but they can also contribute to nerve irritation and tendon damage.
Before you go out and buy new shoes, consider loosening the laces on your current pair.
Your shoes fit if:
- They feel snug around the heel and middle.
- There is some wiggle room around the toes.
- You can fit half to a full thumb width between the ball of your foot and the edge of your shoe.
- You can fit half to a full thumb width between your toes and the edge of your shoe.
- You can slip a thumb under the knot of your laces.
If your shoes are still not right, consider going to a running store to have your feet and gait measured. They will be able to advise you on the right pair for your feet.
Often overlooked, socks can help prevent foot pain by wicking away moisture. Cotton socks are rubbish at moisture wicking so make sure you get a synthetic material.
If moisture is wicked away then there is less chance of you developing athlete’s foot.
A good pair of socks can also help prevent blisters and friction pain by acting as a barrier between your foot and the sole of your shoe.
Like your shoes, you need your socks to fit nicely. There shouldn’t be extra fabric hanging around under your foot.
Don’t run before you can walk, as the saying goes. What we mean is, take things at a sensible pace. If you push yourself too far, you’ll end up shocking your nerves, muscles, tendons, and soft tissues. Then you’ll end up resting for weeks.
Build up to longer and longer runs bit by bit. If you’re planning on running over new surfaces, for instance going from running track to cross country running, take time to get used to the new style.
From lotions and potions to cool water baths, there are plenty of things you can do to ease your foot pain and get back on your feet.
- Place your feet in cool water to reduce swelling and relieve heat pain.
- Use anti-chafing products on the soles of your feet.
- Use a foot powder to keep your feet dry.
- Dry your shoes out freely after a run. Don’t leave them to fester in your gym bag!
- Use athletic tape to cover blister prone areas.
You don’t need to let foot pain slow you down. Take some time to figure out the cause and then try some of these remedies.
If your pain persists, please seek professional medical help.