Causes of foot pain after running on a treadmill

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pain in foot after running on treadmill

It is generally a good idea to get more exercise. Most of us can use more activity in our lifestyle. To do this, many of us will use a treadmill.

It means we can stay indoors, which is excellent when the weather is bad. It may also be more convenient, since treadmills will often be located in a gym or fitness area at work.

However, while the treadmill may be a more convenient and comfortable way to get some exercise, you are running the same risks of injury and pain as you would if you were running outside.

It’s still a very high-impact exercise which can be hard on the body in a variety of ways.

Ironically, the damage that this kind of exercise can do is more pronounced in people who are carrying extra weight on their bodies.

So, folks who might be most motivated to get exercise are also the people who may have the most issues with pain from exercise.

Many people will be familiar with the pain that running can create in joints, though less well-known are conditions that running can cause in your foot.

Despite this lack of knowledge, there are many possible conditions caused by running on a treadmill. We will examine some of those conditions below.

Plantar Fasciitis

One of the most common foot complaints among people who run on a treadmill regularly is called plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain.

This condition is a tear or strain of the plantar fascia which is the band of tissue along the bottom of the foot between the heel and the toes. It can cause ongoing swelling and pain.

The condition generally causes stabbing pain with your first steps in the morning or after standing up after sitting for a long time.

In this way, it’s sort of like having a painful version of your foot falling asleep. After circulation in your foot has returned, the pain from plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but, again, it might return after standing for a long time, or after getting up from a seated position.

Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners, including those who do all their running on a treadmill.

This is because, wherever you do your running, it causes a great deal of wear and tear on the bottom of your foot.

Also, the condition can be caused by too much pronation or other problems with the way your foot strikes.

In addition, people who are overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support are at risk of plantar fasciitis.

Intermetatarsal Neuroma

Another condition that can be caused by running on a treadmill is called intermetatarsal neuroma or Morton’s neuroma.

This condition generally affects the bottom of the ball of the foot and the toes. It is the irritation of one of the nerves between the metatarsal bones. The pain caused by this irritation spreads to the adjacent toes.

By far the most common location for a neuroma to develop is between the bases of the third and fourth toes.

Less commonly, a neuroma can also occur between the bases of the second and third toes.  Very rarely, neuromas will develop between the fourth and fifth toes or the first and second toes.

The primary cause for a neuroma is wear and tear, which is exactly what is caused by running. The intermetatarsal nerve runs through a narrow space between various parts of the foot.

It wends its way between the wide parts of the metatarsal bones, a ligament above the bones, and is repeatedly compressed by hitting the ground below.

Therefore, it is very susceptible to irritation and compression by regular stresses on it, whether through running or because of wearing high heels or tight shoes.

Even more problematic, repeated compression or irritation can cause the nerve to become thickened.

Since it is already running through a tight space, when it becomes thickened, it is even more susceptible to compression. This causes a vicious cycle of compression, irritation, and further thickening.

The symptoms felt by patients suffering from a neuroma can vary. The character of the pain can be sharp and shooting, or burning, or a chronic ache.

Alternatively, the patient might feel numbness or a sense of walking on a rolled-up sock. The symptoms can be located under the ball of the foot, or in the two adjacent toes, or both.

The symptoms are always on the bottom of the ball and toes, however. Patients will notice that the pain is worse with increased activities that involve bearing weight and bending at the ball of the foot.

The pain is usually worse with shoes on and improves with removing the shoes and resting.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone. This tendon is used when you walk, run, jump or push up on your toes.

Like Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis most commonly occurs in runners who have suddenly increased the intensity or duration of their runs.

So it isn’t necessarily directly related to a treadmill, it is related to running. It’s also common in middle-aged people who play sports, such as tennis or basketball, only on the weekends.

Most cases of Achilles tendinitis can be treated with relatively simple, at-home care under your doctor’s supervision.

Self-care strategies are usually necessary to prevent recurring episodes. More-serious cases of Achilles tendinitis can lead to tendon tears or ruptures that may require surgical repair.

While exercise is generally a good idea, a person must be aware that exercise can cause its own challenges.

And that will include what feels like the more sensible solution of running on a treadmill instead of concrete outside.

Further Reading

“When Treadmill Running Causes Foot Pain.” By Nicholas Sol. Podiatry Today.

“Plantar Fasciitis: Topic Overview.” WebMD.

“Bottom of the Foot Pain while Using the Treadmill.” by Dana Severson.

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