Pain In Arch Of Foot After Running? 3 Potential Causes + Treatment Plan

Diagnose arch pain quick so you can treat it and get back running

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Pain in the arch of the foot after running can quickly rob you of the joy of hitting the trails.

Running is an excellent way to stay in shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but it can also lead to various types of injuries, including arch pain. In fact, arch pain, most commonly seen as plantar fasciitis, can account for around 8% of all running injuries.

Injuries can be prevented or reduced in severity by taking appropriate precautions. Even in cases of acute foot arch pain, there is typically a path toward complete recovery through a well-structured rehabilitation program.

Understanding the most likely causes of this condition is the first step toward effective management and prevention.

In this article, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and potential solutions for pain in arch of foot after running.

Let’s jump into it!

A person with pain in the arch of foot after running.

Foot Arch anatomy

Before we explore the factors contributing to arch discomfort, it is helpful to have an idea of the foot’s anatomical structure.

The foot’s arch is composed of three principal arches: the medial arch (situated on the inside), the lateral arch (located on the outside), and the transverse arch (spanning across the midfoot).

These arches collaborate to uphold the body’s load and mitigate impact forces encountered during physical activities such as running.

The 3cMost Common Causes of Pain In Arch Of Foot After Running

A runner holding her foot in pain.

#1: Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a common musculoskeletal injury characterized by discomfort or pain in the plantar fascia, a structure comprised of three fibrous connective tissue bands connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes.

This structure plays a vital role in enabling the foot’s spring-like movement, akin to tendons and ligaments.

Contrary to its name, plantar fasciitis is more accurately termed Chronic Plantar Heel Pain (CPHP) because it is primarily a fasciopathy, not an inflammatory condition.

Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include:

  • Heel pain when pressure is applied to the foot; the pain can be dull, burning, or stabbing.
  • Most commonly, pain is centered around the calcaneus (heel bone.)
  • Sometimes, the pain radiates outward from the heel towards the toes.
  • The pain is typically worse in the morning when getting out of bed and often subsides in intensity as foot muscles warm up.
  • Bottom of feet hurt when running.
  • If pain persists during rest, it commonly worsens in the evening after daily activities.
A foot red with pain.

Engaging in repetitive activities such as walking, running, or prolonged standing can lead to microtrauma in the plantar fascia. Runners are particularly susceptible if they increase their mileage too rapidly.

Additionally, conditions like overpronation, high arches, and flat feet can disrupt the even distribution of forces across the plantar fascia, making it more susceptible to damage.

These biomechanical issues can also induce abnormal movement patterns that exert additional pressure on the plantar fascia, contributing to discomfort.

In summary, plantar fasciitis, or CPHP, predominantly results from overuse and suboptimal foot biomechanics.

Identifying and addressing these factors is crucial for both prevention and management of this condition. We’ll look at specific prevention protocols later!

A person massaing their foot.

#2: Stress Fracture

A stress fracture in the foot signifies a minute crack or hairline fracture that typically develops in a bone due to repetitive, excessive force applied to the foot.

Unlike acute injuries from a single traumatic event, these fractures result from ongoing strain.

These fractures most frequently affect weight-bearing bones, making the foot a common location for their occurrence.

The second and third metatarsals, bones in the forefoot, and the calcaneus, or heel bone, are particularly susceptible, though other foot bones can also be affected.

To accurately diagnose a stress fracture, a comprehensive evaluation is essential. This typically involves:

  1. Medical History Assessment: The patient’s history will be examined, including the onset, duration, and nature of symptoms.
  2. Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination will assess for localized tenderness, swelling, and changes in foot alignment.
  3. Imaging Studies: Medical professionals often utilize X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or DEXA scans to confirm the presence of a stress fracture.
A person holding their foot in pain.

If a stress fracture is suspected, prompt medical attention is crucial to ensure effective recovery and prevent complications.

Symptoms of stress fractures include:

  • Stress fractures typically start with mild discomfort, gradually worsening with continued activity, often relieved by rest.
  • Pain is concentrated in specific foot areas, such as the metatarsals or the heel, with tenderness upon touch or pressure.
  • Swelling frequently occurs around the fracture site, accompanied by mild to moderate inflammation.
  • Activities like walking or running worsen the pain, as repetitive stress intensifies discomfort.
  • Some may experience increased pain or discomfort at night or during periods of inactivity due to the body’s healing efforts during non-weight-bearing times.
A person holding their foot.

#3: Tendonitis

Arch pain in the foot caused by tendonitis is a common condition that can be quite uncomfortable.

Simply put, tendonitis is inflammation in the tendon. In the case of arch pain, it typically involves inflammation of the tendons that support the arch of the foot.

The arch of the foot is supported by key tendons and ligaments, including the plantar fascia, tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis longus, flexor digitorum longus, and peroneus tendons.

Issues with these structures can lead to arch pain and conditions like tendonitis or flat feet.

Tendonitis usually occurs when an excessive build-up of micro tears causes tendon damage and inflammation, leading to pain and difficulty exercising. Activities such as running, walking, or standing for extended periods can contribute to this condition.

A person warming up with a side lunge.

How to Prevent Foot arch pain – 3 Methodologies

There are a number of protocols that you can add to your routine in order to proactively lower the risk of aggravating your arch pain. These will also help prevent you from experiencing pain in the future.

These are:

#1: Warm Up

Warming up before running offers a multitude of advantages, benefiting athletes in various ways.

It increases muscle temperature, enhances blood circulation, and activates the nervous system, all of which play a pivotal role in preparing the body for exercise.

#2: Find A Training Plan That Works For You

The primary cause of each of these conditions mentioned above is overuse.

This occurs when the repetitive force generated during running leads to microscopic damage in the muscles, tendons, or bones of the feet.

Over time, the body will be able to adapt to this stimulus by strengthening and increasing its ability to handle the load, and a training plan should safely recreate this stimulus and adaptation cycle.

A workout plan.

However, when insufficient recovery time is allowed, the accumulated stress can potentially result in a stress fracture. Overuse injuries are a common concern, accounting for up to 80% of all running-related injuries.

It’s easy for runners to become captivated by the exhilaration of physical fitness and the release of endorphins. The temptation to push one’s limits and neglect the need for rest can be challenging to resist.

Maintaining a balanced perspective and providing the body with the right environment for adapting to the demands of running is essential.

Sudden and drastic increases in running volume, intensity, or frequency are frequent contributors to overtraining syndrome, a condition in which the body’s capacity is overwhelmed.

One rule that some runners follow is the 10% rule. This dictates that you should not increase your total running volume by more than 10% in any given week. Although not perfect, this is a good rule to bear in mind.

The human body possesses incredible potential when it’s exposed to a balanced combination of stimulation, rest, and proper nutrition.

A person lifting weights.

#3: Be Sure To Strength Train!

Lower extremity muscle strength is recognized as a key factor in reducing running-related injuries. So, if the arch of foot hurts after running, strengthen it.

Implementing a well-designed strength and conditioning routine can enhance your body’s resilience and decrease the risk of future injuries by strengthening muscles and their connecting tissues.

Starting with weights that are comfortable for your current fitness level is essential.

If unsure as to how to start, seeking guidance from a qualified physical therapist or trainer can be beneficial, as they can provide exercises targeting specific muscles, ensuring proper form and technique.

As your body adapts and grows stronger, its ability to withstand physical stress improves. It’s important to adjust exercise intensity as your strength progresses. A safe and effective strength training program relies on gradual progression.

A person getting a calf massage.

Arch Pain Running: Treatments

The treatment approach for arch pain after running will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.

Here are some common treatment options that may help reduce pain experienced:

  1. Rest and Ice: If the pain that you’re experiencing is severe, then resting or reducing your training volume is crucial. You can also try applying ice to the affected area, which may help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
  2. Orthotics: If you find that the bottom of feet hurt when running, ensure your running shoes provide adequate arch support and cushioning. You may benefit from using orthotic inserts or custom-made insoles to improve your shoe’s fit and support.
  3. Massage: Go for a sports massage! Hands-on treatments such as massage, joint mobilization, or soft tissue release can help to reduce muscle tension and improve overall foot mobility.
  4. Anti-Inflammatory Medications: If the arch of foot hurts after running and the pain is severe, anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation. However, these should be used under medical guidance.
A person getting fitted for orthotics.

Final Thoughts

Foot arch pain from running is a common issue that can be prevented and managed. Common causes include plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and tendonitis.

To prevent such pain, warm up, follow balanced training plans, and incorporate strength training. You can also try treatment options, including rest, ice, orthotics, massage, and anti-inflammatory medication.

Prioritizing these measures can help ensure an enjoyable, injury-free running experience.

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Ben is a qualified Personal Trainer and Sports Massage Therapist with a particular interest in running performance and injury. He has spent the last 9 years working with runners at his clinic in Brighton. Ben is a keen runner and avid cyclist. Evenly splitting his time between trail running, road biking, and MTB.

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