YANMD - Is my crazy foot pain arthritis, or running related?
June 14, 2014 5:18 AM   Subscribe

I recently took up running. Three days after my last run I was struck with crazy pain in my foot which has never really gone away. Snowflake details inside.

Inspired by my wife’s incredible pledge to get fit since the New Year, I decided to take up running at 30 after a decade of sedentary life. I bought proper running shoes. I did not push myself very hard at all at first. I probably got 6 runs in over three weeks, each of maybe 3 km.

On my last run, two weeks ago, I noticed joint pain in my LEFT knee the moment I left the door. I ran through that. I'd also had some neck pain in the previous days. Like a stiff neck.

The knee pain was slightly noticeable the following day (Tuesday). On Thursday, mid-afternoon, I got some crazy joint pain in my RIGHT knee and especially my foot. By Thursday night it felt like a cramp in my foot that would not go away. Tylenol helped a bit, but the pain stuck around for a full seven days. I was limping three days, and noticing the pain after that but not limping.

Last night around supper (the eighth day after the pain first struck) I noticed the pain was pretty much gone. And then it came back with a vengeance out of nowhere and I’m still feeling it this morning. I’m limping.

I’m trying to figure out if this is running related, or if it’s arthritis, or what. The pain struck 3 days after my last run, so I can’t see it being directly tied to running. I have not run since for fear of making it flare up.

There was an intense low pressure system that moved into our area around the time I got the first intense pain in my foot. It’s calling for rain again tonight.

My dad, who is in his mid-fifties, has bad arthritis in his knees after a lifetime of working construction.

The pain seems to be centered in the arch of my foot. What the heck is going on?
posted by Brodiggitty to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
My suggestion is to see a podiatrist; bring your running shoes along. You may need custom orthotics to support your arches; you may have an injury that can't be diagnosed over the internet.
posted by coldhotel at 5:37 AM on June 14, 2014

I agree with coldhotel, but also:

probably you ramped up your running too quickly. I know that seems crazy (6 km a week?? how is that too much??), but most couch to 5k programs recommend easing into the running with lots of walking sections. Getting into the running too quickly didn't give your body a chance to build muscle, stretch tendons, etc.
posted by correcaminos at 5:54 AM on June 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I can't comment on the possibility of arthritis or stress fracture but I can say that you really should start out much slower than you have. Couch 2 5K is a great program - do it is using a phone app or mp3s. It will feel stupid slow at first but it will help you avoid getting these kinds of injuries from the sudden shock to your system of becoming active.
posted by srboisvert at 5:56 AM on June 14, 2014

I hate going to the doctor but I will if a random unexplained pain crops up and doesn't lessen after a week or if a pain fades but reoccurs. That usually indicates more than simply rest to take care of the problem.
posted by Aranquis at 6:07 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Osteoarthritis, the degenerative process wherein the cartilage at the surface where two bones come into contact erodes, which is what most people mean when they say "arthritis", doesn't happen overnight. "Arthritis" as a general term means "inflamed joint", which you might have. You could also have a strain or tear of any of the little muscles that make your feet go, or a little tendinitis. Any way you look at it, whether you go to the doc or not, the first step is RICE - rest, ice, compression, and elevation - to reduce any inflammatory process. Little foot muscles and tendons and joints are tricky to compress, but the other measures are easy.
When you feel better, if you really must run, start slow and do it on a soft even surface like a rubberized track or a treadmill. Advance your run slowly (and if you're just desperate to advance your cardio faster, try an elliptical or stationary bike, which are no-impact.)
posted by gingerest at 6:11 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

You are running too much. Start slow. Use the Couch to 5K app if you have a smartphone. This trains you to run 3 km after 9 weeks of training. You should be running a mile and walking two right now. That kind of ratio. There's no reason to rush into running like this. Let your body adjust and you'll be happier and more likely to stick with it in the long term.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:12 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the pain has been around this long it definitely seems like something you should have looked at.

I know you said you had bought proper running shoes, but when you bought them, did you go to a running store and have someone watch your gait and recommend a shoe based on that? The first time I tried Couch to 5K I tweaked my knee by running in ill-matched shoes. (Granted, mine were cheapo generic sneakers... but I think more important than their being cheap was that they didn't match the pronation of my feet.)
posted by usonian at 6:24 AM on June 14, 2014

This is all great advice. Thanks so much. I am going to see my family doc Monday. Clearly I must've overdone it, as good as I was feeling.
posted by Brodiggitty at 6:26 AM on June 14, 2014

Going from nothing to something (exercise-wise) is unfortunately always going to be painful. These sorts of issues are to be expected. Take it easy on your body and stick with it.
posted by killdevil at 6:54 AM on June 14, 2014

Think about healthy form when running. I have very little understanding on the subject, but I definitely feel physically better when I consciously think about my stride and how my foot hits the ground when I run. I think I was running sort of with a similar stride to how I walk and that really hurt my knees.
posted by Swisstine at 7:14 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should try foam rollering your ITB on that leg.

But yes, I agree with other posters who think you have done too much too soon. And also yes, arthritis is not a thing that happens overnight. Unless you have a lifetime history of hard manual labor as your dad does, it seems like what you have is just a run of the mill repetitive stress injury.

You might find it helpful to use cushiony inserts in your running shoes, especially ones that raise the heel slightly. You can also get heel inserts separate from the insoles. This helps lessen the impact strain on your knees with each stride.
posted by elizardbits at 8:39 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Osteoarthritis doesn't happen overnight, but rheumatoid arthritis can emerge or become serious pretty suddenly. Talk to your doctor about what the pain is like and they can determine whether you need to see a rheumatologist.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:18 PM on June 14, 2014

Not that I disagree that Brodiggity needs to see his doc and talk about his pain (which he's going to) but as an autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis doesn't affect one joint in isolation or in response to increased mechanical stress. I totally get where you're coming from, but RA is a pretty serious disabling disorder (as is osteoarthritis) and it might be more scary than helpful to bring that worrisome and unlikely possibility into the discussion when the OP is already planning to see a doctor.
posted by gingerest at 3:02 PM on June 14, 2014

Look up bone spurs - little arthritis-related nubs on your bone that can cause nasty pain that comes and goes at random. I've been getting twinges myself, and it sounds a similar sort of thing.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:08 PM on June 15, 2014

Follow up- Did not visit a doc. The pain went away on its own. I started out slowly again and it is going well. I panicked when it flared up after a week but that was the end of it.
posted by Brodiggitty at 4:16 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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