My left foot
November 3, 2005 1:44 PM   Subscribe

My feet hurt!

I try to run a few times a week and I find that when I run outside my left sole starts aching. I don't have this problem on a treadmill. Other times, my feet just generally feel sore. I ran outside a little bit over the summer and didn't have this problem, even though the surface was about the same (sidewalk, asphalt). My knees don't hurt or anything, either--just my left and sometimes both soles.

My main theory is that it's from wearing dress shoes at work and from running with old, cheap, $10 sneakers. I switched the sneakers to flashy Nikes that make me look like an evil cyborg from the future and have started putting on my dress shoes only when I'm on the subway. This seems to have helped, but the achiness seems to have been left over from before. For example, I still feel it after about 15 min on the treadmill and then switch to biking or rowing. The pain isn't very intense: it's more like a sore feeling and doesn't really hurt, but makes me want to stop running.

Any advice on how to "fix" my left foot? Would it help to soak my foot in epson salts? I've also heard good things about balms made from ginger and salt.
posted by kensanway to Health & Fitness (22 answers total)
See a podiatrist. Seriously. Sometimes the problem is a simple as an imbedded corn that you just can't see.
posted by sixpack at 1:52 PM on November 3, 2005

Running in cheap sneakers is a terrible thing to do to yourself (as is walking in uncomfortable shoes -- you should be able to find dress shoes that don't hurt.)

You may have a stress fracture [pdf]. See a podiatrist; don't use AskMe as a substitute for actual diagnosis.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:52 PM on November 3, 2005

Go see a podiatrist. You may have something along the lines of plantar fasciitis, or some form of tendinitis, or one of the things mentioned above, or avian flu, or cooties.
posted by matildaben at 2:06 PM on November 3, 2005

This happens to me when I walk for exercise, outside or on the treadmill. I find tying my shoes tighter helps.
posted by clh at 2:16 PM on November 3, 2005

How long has it been since you switched from the cheap sneakers to the good sneakers? I had a similar experience a couple of months ago and it took a few weeks for my feet to really feel completely better.
posted by clarahamster at 2:21 PM on November 3, 2005

clh: Curious answer; I've been told that it's good idea to wear your running shoes loose to avoid foot pain. I don't doubt your experience, but the theory behind the loose laces is that your feet actually expand during a run, due to heat, sweat, and increased blood flow. Hence, what felt comfortable at the beginning of a run might turn out to be too tight by the end of the run, and could cause foot problems. I can't vouch absolutely for this theory; it was relayed to me by the guy who was fitting my running shoes. I couldn't see any economic incentive for him to try to sell me up a half-size...
posted by mr_roboto at 2:55 PM on November 3, 2005

I heart my podiatrist -- something as simple as an orthodic insert has made walking a non-issue the next day...
posted by armacy at 2:59 PM on November 3, 2005

Are you running on concrete? Try switching to dirt, grass, wood chips, or asphalt. Don't skimp on shoes. If you have high arches, get well-cushioned shoes. If you have flat feet or pronate, get stability shoes, etc.
posted by callmejay at 3:02 PM on November 3, 2005

Also, stretch your calves and hamstrings -- they connect over your heel to your plantar fascia.
posted by callmejay at 3:02 PM on November 3, 2005

When you run outside, do you always take the same route, or a few different routes? One thing I've noticed in my town is that there are long sections of sidewalk that are canted at an angle towards the street. Running on those creates a noticeable uneven strain on the muscles in my legs and on my feet.

Also, what everyone else has said.

Once those Nikes wear out, if you want to try a shoe with excellent support, I would reccomend Brooks. I'm fairly heavy compared to most active runners (~265 pounds), and Brooks makes the only shoes I've tried that have enough support to prevent me from getting shin splints running on pavement. They're simply wonderful.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 3:09 PM on November 3, 2005

mr roboto - notice i said *walking*. And not power walking either. I'm talking a 30-minute brisk walk in the neighborhood or on the treadmill. I tend to doubt that my feet would expand too much in that instance.

I have no doubt that running is a whole other ball o' wax, and I admire those who do it. :)

I only posted because ken's pain sounds very similar to my own.
posted by clh at 3:25 PM on November 3, 2005

My mother has had a lot of foot problems and pursued a lot of remedies. She swears by the Birkenstock shoe inserts. I like them, too. They feel a little strange at first, but really relieve the fatigue of flat bottomed shoes.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:05 PM on November 3, 2005

Not that this is necessarily your problem, but you can't just buy expensive shoes, but you should buy shoes that are right for you. You may need stability or cushioning or whatever. The staff at a good running store should be able to help you out -- and they should watch you run.

Also, because of the expanding foot factor, you'll probably want a size or half-size bigger than your typical size. Again, if it's your first serious pair of running shoes, the running store people can measure your feet and recommend a starting point for a size.

It usually costs a bit more to go to a good running store, but it's worth it, and you can always buy the same kind somewhere less expensive after 500 miles.

I had pain on the bottom of my foot a few months ago, and it was just because my shoes were too old.
posted by Airhen at 4:07 PM on November 3, 2005

Running outdoors is very different from running indoors. Even if you run on concrete (which is to be avoided) or tarmac, you're unlikely to be on such a uniform surface as a treadmill. So you're likely to be working muscles that you may not stress in daily life. Swapping your dress shoes for something more supportive and flexible may help; as may trading in your flashy shoes for a genuinely good pair of running shoes. For this I'd recommend asking around, it's a very personal thing. Find a good shop that will let you try the shoes on and go running up and down outside. Ask if the staff are keen runners - if not, move on.

The fact that you're feeling the pain predominantly on one side suggests to me one of two things: (1) your body is slightly out of balance, e.g. one leg slightly longer than the other, etc. This sort of thing is very common, none of us are perfectly symmetrical. Or (2) your running gait is slightly out of whack. You can get (1) checked by a physiotherapist, a chiropodist, or similar. As for (2), a physio may spot that, or anyone with good sports experience. In good running shops you can sometimes find they'll check your gait for you.

The best thing you could do would be to seek professional help, preferably from someone with a solid sports background. There are doctors, physiotherapists and osteopaths who will be able to help you.

As some really general advice (and apologies if I'm teaching your granny to suck eggs) it's always a good idea to follow something like the following procedure:

1. Joint rotations. Sit down and draw each letter of the alphabet in the air with both feet. Use your hand to rotate your feet a few times in one direction then the other. Swivel your hips slowly and in big circles, like you're doing a hula-hoop, for 20 seconds or so. Then do 10 or 20 squats, maybe holding onto something to get as low as you can.

2. Warm up. This should be similar to the exercise you are planning to do, but a little lighter. So walking before running, for example. You should raise your temperature, maybe get a light sweat going before the real work. Aim for about 50% of your anticipated work-rate.

3. Brief stretches. Static stretching before exercise should be short, if you do it at all - lengthy stretching loosens the muscles and encourages injury. (If you're an experienced athlete, you could look into dynamic stretching). In particular stretch your calf muscles. Just 3 or 4 seconds each will be fine.

4. Exercise!

5. Cool down. Just like the warm-up, do the same exercise but get progressively slower. Slow to a walk after a run, for example. Keep going until your heart rate is approaching your rest rate.

6. Stretch. Now is the time for static stretching. Stretch all the muscles in your legs (and ideally everywhere else), even if you think they're not related to your problem, for 10-30 seconds each. A tip for stretching is that it should be felt in the belly of the muscle, and definitely not in or near the joints.

On the "foot expansion" tip... 30 minutes of walking could be plenty to get them to swell. On the other hand, it could easily reduce their size, due to increased lymph drainage. Depends on the individual and the circumstance.
posted by ajp at 4:24 PM on November 3, 2005

a) Stay away from flipflops/shoes with no padding. I seriously inflamed a tendon in my foot this way (sounds similar, actually) and couldn't run for 4 months or so.

b) Run on dirt (like has been said).

c) Get shoes that fit your foot (like has been said).

d) STOP IF IT HURTS. I don't think the flipflops would have been a problem, except that I ran 12 miles the next day, the whole time thinking, hm, I wonder why my foot is tender. The next day I couldn't walk on it.
posted by devilsbrigade at 5:29 PM on November 3, 2005

Like most nurses, I've ended up with a chronic tendonitis in both feet. The only thing that works on a consistent basis are Yamuna Foot Savers. They're rubber half circles that are use in a short stretching routine on a daily basis. Her website sells them with a video. That, and Birkenstocks are what has allowed me to continue to practice as a nurse.
posted by TorontoSandy at 5:59 PM on November 3, 2005

I love you too, dad.
posted by Falconetti at 8:43 PM on November 3, 2005

I had inexplicable foot pain for years. I saw one podiatrist, who did not help. I saw another, and he made insoles for my feet, which fixed the problem. Don't get discouraged if one doctor can't help - keep working at it till someone can help. I guess implicit in this answer is to see a podiatrist.
posted by lorrer at 10:15 PM on November 3, 2005

I've been seeing an orthopedic doctor for a foot problem and he said that he could prescribe an orthotic insole for my feet (at the cost of $300-400) or I could get a pair made by Superfeet. He had taken a look at them and he was impressed. One of his patients told him about them.

I found a dealer in my area and had custom insoles made while I waited at a cost of $60. I've been wearing them for a week and my foot problem is noticably better.

I place these insoles in my gym shoes, work shoes, and casual shoes with no problem.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 7:27 AM on November 4, 2005

Does the same foot hurt first thing in the morning when you get up? If so then it's probably the very common plantar fasciitis. Stretching and making sure you sleep with your foot flexed can really help the problem, as can dress shoes that are stiff.
posted by OmieWise at 7:54 AM on November 4, 2005

I second the plantar fasciitis- that's definitely what your problem sounds like. It's common among runners.
posted by jitterbug perfume at 3:47 AM on November 9, 2005

Where are you located? I saw somebody else recommended Yamuna's Foot Savers however she also has something called Foot Wakers. Both are really great for the feet as they educate the muscles and bones which helps prevent injuries and the pain that you are feeling. Both products come with instructions however she also has certified practitioners throughout the world that teach classes and privates.
posted by YaelNYC at 11:22 AM on November 22, 2005

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