Why is the outside arch of my foot burning?
April 26, 2012 9:57 PM   Subscribe

Runners and people who know feet, please help: the outside arch edge of my right foot starts burning during exercise and walking.

I'm trying to be a runner, am on day 2 of Couch 2 5K-- I also walk about three miles a day total to and from work, but I'm not too sporty or unusually hard on my feet, and I always wear athletic shoes when doing any of the aforementioned activities.

In my old shoes, I had some arch pain that was getting increasingly frequent, particularly in my right arch; also, occasionally, the bottom outside edge (the outside section of my arch) of my right foot would burn and I'd have to stop walking to get it to stop. To address the arch pain, I went to a sporting goods store and got some new shoes-- the salesguy watched me walk barefoot and told me I have low arches and I pronate, and I bought these shoes on his recommendation. Since I started wearing those shoes last week, I experience that burning at least once per walk, and about 20 minutes or so into the Couch to 5K. It's now been about two hours since my last run, and I can feel it very very faintly still on the side of my right foot.

Am I walking incorrectly, or am I not stretching something that should be stretched, or am I just plain wearing the wrong shoes? Are there terms I should be googling that will tell me more than my current attempts have? In my other shoes, it's the inside of my arch that starts to hurt; in these new shoes, it's the outside. I live a walking lifestyle (no car, no bike) in a walking city, and I don't want to be doing permanent damage to my feet but I'm not sure what to do next.
posted by c'mon sea legs to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At the very least, you could try some friction block/cream on the outside of your foot. Maybe this is terrible advice, but I found some of my feet problems went away when I used some friction block to keep them from rubbing.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:10 PM on April 26, 2012

Is it close to your heel or nearer the center? This happened to me. The pain was closer to the heal but very similar to what you describe. It ended up being a back problem from driving way too much for work and slouching. Massage + lumbar pillow + decreased commute = relief.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:39 PM on April 26, 2012

Gosh, I'm not an ortho or anything, but that general neighborhood would suggest plantar fasciitis or maybe irritation of the peroneus muscle tendons where they attach to the base of your littlest toe (that bump about halfway up the outer edge of your foot). Any ankle issues?
posted by vetala at 11:48 PM on April 26, 2012

Try stretching your calves. Standing on one foot, half off a step, allow your calf to stretch. That helped me when I was dealing with mild PF. I do it religiously now.

If you wear flip flops - stop.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:02 AM on April 27, 2012

Is the pain you're getting now any different than the one before? I mean is it any more external than the previous one? Because some of that could just be friction and getting used to your new shoes, if the sole hits your foot in different places. I had the worst blisters when I first got support shoes on my arches, but those feel very different than internal pain, obviously. That does sound a little like PF if it's closer to the heel, so trying out some of the foot muscle exercises may help you figure out what the problem is. You can also roll a tennis ball around under your foot under your desk at work or while sitting at the computer. Some of them, if you can do them without further pain, may help strength your foot regardless. Have you tried taking any days off from walking/running? Is there a particular movement in your normal shoes that creates the same problem? Unfortunately sometimes feet gotta heal (hah) and you may need to allow them enough time to do that. Definitely look around the Runner's World forums which are an excellent source of advice and commiseration.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:26 AM on April 27, 2012

The number one mistake people make is trying to stick to some arbitrary plan or meet some silly goal. The goal here is to not get hurt, right? Running wrong is hard on your body and you can hurt yourself in ways that NEVER heal. At least you recognize that.

The number two mistake is listening to experts rather than your body. Nobody really understand the mechanics of running. We still don't even know if shoes or barefoot running is better, let alone what shoe or exercise is right for a given body type. Whatever you're doing right now is not working, so switch it up.

I used to have incredibly flat feet and serious over pronation. Starting out, I ran in bad shoes and wound up with knee problems. I ran in orthotics AND a serious motion control shoe for 12 years and the knee problems went away, but my feet started to hurt a few years ago. I recently started transitioning to vibram five fingers. Not sure how my legs will do in the long run, but the feet really do seem to be saying "you've been doing this wrong". Don't be afraid to change it up! There is no harm in trying different shoes, barefoot, different surfaces, etc. Just make sure that any changes are done carefully and slowly. Pay close attention to how you feel.

I';d never again make the mistake of running on sad feet. It's awful easy to wind up with an injury that hangs around for years if you make the mistake of working through pain. You're already going slow, but go slower. Slow, slow, slow. If you hurt, stop. Limit yourself to running 2-3 times a week. Do something different each week until you figure it out. Take notes! Experiment and see what feels right. Get some orthotics if your insurance covers them. I'd try to get off the pavement and onto grass or a nice trail to help absorb some of that impact, though that can be hard in the city. Maybe try walking in a pair of Birkenstocks for a while and see how that feels. They take some getting used to, but they're certainly very different from normal shoes.

Good luck. I know how frustrating it is, but you'll figure it out.
posted by pjaust at 6:27 AM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you have access to treadmill or some soft ground like the beach?
Walk for 30-60 minutes on barefoot (or socks - be warned that you might get pretty painful blisters on the treadmill).
Note if the same pain is there. If it is, there is either something wrong with your gait or feet.
If not, wait a couple of days and do the same with the shoes.
If the pain returns with the shoes, ditch them.
If the result is inconclusive, do what pjaust suggests. Experiment.

By the way it is not unheard of for 'corrective' shoes to introduce pains and aches to your feet. If they do, ditch them. Always, always wear something comfortable. I never had more running injuries than when I was slogging on with uncomfortable shoes recommended by so called experts.

And no matter what shoes you end up wearing: minimalist or full pronation correction, always remember that. Pain is your body's way of telling you something is wrong. And more than shoes, in running the most important thing is form, form, and form.
posted by 7life at 12:03 PM on April 27, 2012

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