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Training & advice

Andy Byrne - Foot pain

Andy Byrne from David Roberts Physiotherapy with advice on how to settle foot pain.

In a similar way to shin pain, foot pain often occurs after heavy marathon training simply because of the high mileage and high demand on the foot. Again, serious injuries such as stress fractures can occur at this time, although they are not common, and as such any foot pain should properly assessed by your Physiotherapist.

Plantar Fasciitis is probably the most common foot problem for runners, and there is plenty of advice with regards to this.   This is more likely to happen earlier in the training programme if it is going to occur at all, and as such the main foot complaint that I see at this point prior to the marathon is on the top of the foot.

There are various causes of this pain, but it can often be treated with stretches, self-massage, ice, and anti-inflammatory creams.  The important thing is to make sure that you do not let this problem go untreated for too long, in which case, the level of inflammation can mean that you have to stop training.  Often what happens is that the tendons in the top of your foot are simply being over-worked, or being irritated by rubbing on your running shoes.

The best stretch for the top of your feet is as follows and is the same as the "shin stretch".  In bare feet, kneel on the floor (a carpeted one) with your toes pointing out behind you.  Slowly sit backwards onto your feet keeping your back straight.  Use your hands behind you to support some of your weight so that you feel a stretch in your shins and the tops of your feet, but you are not putting all of your weight through your feet.  Hold for the standard 20-30 seconds, and repeat as part of your stretching regime, as well as before and after running.  You can vary the stretch slightly by leaning slightly left or right, or by turning the feet slightly in or out as you do the stretches to target the area that feels like it needs the stretch the most.

As well as stretching, I would suggest massage to the top of your foot.  In an effort to multi-task (yes men can do it sometimes), you can use anti-inflammatory cream whilst you do the massage.  You don't need to be particularly proficient at massage to do this.  Simply get plenty of the anti-inflammatory cream and rub it into the top of the foot, focussing on any painful areas, and aim to spend 5 to 10 minutes doing this every day.   

I would also recommend using ice for 20 minutes, twice a day if possible to try and reduce inflammtion further. 

Beyond, massage, ice and stretches, try to loosen your laces slightly (not too much or your shoes will be too loose and can cause blisters), to reduce the pressure on the top of your foot. 

The above ideas can very effectively reduce pain on the top of your foot. I speak from personal experience, and what can feel like quite a serious problem, can be quickly treated with an intense treatment programme, such as the one above.