Why foot pain can get worse when exercising…

11 May 2023

Foot pain can be a frustrating and painful experience for many people, particularly those who enjoy an active lifestyle. Below we will explore some of the main reasons why foot pain can get worse during exercise, and what you can do to alleviate this discomfort.

1. Increased pressure on the foot structure

One of the main reasons why foot pain can worsen during exercise is the increased pressure that is placed on the foot during physical activity. When we run, walk or perform other high-impact exercises, the force that is transmitted through our feet can be several times our body weight. This puts significant strain on the structures of the foot, including the heel, achilles tendon and the forefoot (front pad of the foot).

If there is an existing injury or condition in the feet, such as plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, neuroma or bunions, this increased pressure can exacerbate the pain and inflammation. This pain prevents you from continuing with your exercise and can have a detrimental effect on your physical and mental health. Excessive pressure on the feet over time can lead to serious damage and inevitably prolongs the time it will take to heal.

2. Inadequate Footwear

Another factor that can contribute to foot pain during exercise is wearing inadequate footwear. If the shoes that you are wearing do not provide adequate support or cushioning for the type of exercise you are doing, then this can place strain on the foot and the structures above the foot such as the ankle, calf and knee. Many ill-fitting shoes or shoes without support have been the causes of conditions such as plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis.

When choosing footwear for exercise, it is important to select shoes that are appropriate for the type of activity that you will be performing, as well as your foot shape and size. Shoes with good arch support and cushioning across the sole, can help to reduce the impact on the foot, and may help to prevent or alleviate pain.

3. Tight or weak muscles

Tight or weak muscles can also contribute foot pain during exercise. If the muscles in the feet, ankles, and calves are tight or weak, this can place additional strain on the surrounding muscles and tendons. This extra strain is the cause of many injuries we see in the clinic and is usually due to overuse (exercising too much) or structural alignment of the foot and ankle and knee, which imbalances the muscles.

Stretching and strengthening exercises for the foot and leg can be hard slog, and to be consistent with these exercises is a habit that sometimes is not easily formed. However it is by strengthening the muscles and providing flexibility (through stretching) in the joints, that this then helps to alleviate pain and discomfort. By improving the flexibility and strength of the muscles, you can help reduce the risk of heel pain, ankle and knee pain, and improve your overall health.

Preventing and treating foot pain during exercise

If you are experiencing foot pain during exercise, there are several things that you can do to alleviate this discomfort and prevent further damage. These include:

  1. Wear appropriate footwear that provides good arch support and cushioning. If your shoes are a few years old, they may still look ok on the outside, but all the soft spongy cushioning is gone.
  2. Incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises into your exercise routine. Strong muscles lead to fewer injuries.
  3. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise routine to prevent overuse injuries. If you have bought new running shoes, it doesn’t mean you can now run a marathon!
  4. Rest your feet when experiencing pain or discomfort. Every step you take is extra pressure on an injury.
  5. Seek a Podiatrists advice if your pain persists or worsens over time. There may be a few simple things that they can incorporate into your treatment that will get you pain free faster.