Why Do I Get Painful Arches When I Run?

Why Do I Get painful arches when I run
There are tons of health benefits to regular running. However, consistent running can also lead to overuse-related injuries in the lower leg. One common pain site for runners is the bottom of the foot, also known as the arch.

Arch pain can be frustrating and make it feel impossible to keep up with your weekly mileage
goals. So you might be asking yourself, “Why do I get painful arches when I run?” Today, we will dive into the possibilities so that you can feel well informed the next time arch pain strikes and know what to do about it.

Causes of Arch Pain

Firstly, it’s important to note that if you’re experiencing frequent arch pain that you should get in touch with your doctor, podiatrist, or physical therapist. Thankfully, most underlying issues that cause painful arches can be conservatively treated if they’re addressed quickly before becoming a bigger problem that requires a long break from running, injections, or even surgery.

Three primary tissues can cause pain in the arch when damaged.

  • The connective tissue of the arch. Inflammation, swelling, and strain of the bottom of the foot can result in a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The most common symptom is to experience painful first steps when getting up in the morning.
  • Tendonitis. The tendon of the muscle known as the posterior tibialis (located behind the shin bone) provides direct support to the arch with walking and running. Inflammation and local damage can lead to a burning sensation in the bottom of the foot with weight-bearing activity.
  • Fracture. Repetitive stress to the metatarsal bones in the foot with higher-impact activities like running can result in a hairline fracture known as a stress fracture. If neglected, it can progress to a complete bone break as well.

Factors that Influence Arch Pain

While the tissues affected can vary (as illustrated above), a few primary factors can lead to arch pain. Which of the tissues is affected will ultimately depend on your unique strengths, weaknesses, and genetics. Keep these top factors in mind when trying to figure out how to get started with managing your pain:

  • Poor footwear. There are many running shoes to choose from depending on your running mechanics, foot alignment, and overall preferences. For example, someone with a flat arch will need additional support from their shoe than someone with stiff high arches. Choosing a shoe that doesn’t fit your particular needs or wearing worn-out shoes can lead to the onset of arch pain.
  • Stiff feet or ankles. Lack of mobility in the foot or ankle can impact the body’s ability to absorb impact with each running stride you take. Plus, it can affect your running mechanics too. This can quickly lead to strain on local tissues that leave you feeling sore.
  • Poor running mechanics. Whether you run on dirt trails, rubber rice, or a treadmill– the body does best when it moves in balance. If any muscle in the core or lower legs are weak, stiff, or uncoordinated, it can strain the low back, hips, knees, or feet. Thus, even if your feet are signaling pain, the actual imbalance may be coming from other parts of your body!
  • Increasing running intensity too quickly. This may be the most common running-related issue that results in injury: increasing mileage or cadence too quickly. This is particularly true with outdoor training on uneven trails or running uphill. Rapid changes don’t allow the body, in this case, the feet, time to adapt and adjust to the increased demands you are putting on it.

What You Can Do About Painful Arches

Now that you understand the factors involved in painful arches, it should feel pretty straightforward in getting started with a management plan that will finally ditch your arch pain. If your pain is moderate to severe, it is probably a good idea to take a few days (up to weeks) of rest to allow irritated tissues to heal. You can also add simple pain-relieving modalities that can boost your healing, like gentle stretching, ice, and foot massage.

After the initial rest period, you can decide the best course of action for your running needs. Most importantly, always make sure you start your running regime slowly and gradually increase intensity at no more than 10% per week (including distance, cadence, or total time). Finally, consider consulting a specialist, such as a physical therapist, to discuss the best options for you related to shoewear, completing a balanced exercise program, and fixing any issues with your running mechanics.

Don’t Ignore Your Arch Pain

You are experiencing arch pain for a reason. It’s always better to investigate and find a solution rather than ignore it until it becomes unbearable. The tips listed above are a great starting point for you to get rid of your arch pain once and for all.

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