Your Foot Hurts? Here’s Why and How to Fix It!

A young couple jogging on the promenade at sunset.

Do you finally want to increase your running speed? Then you have probably already thought about what types of new or more intense training you can try out. And which muscles you need to develop. Running expert and coach Sascha Wingenfeld knows, however, that “the devil is in the details.”

The magic moment
Many runners keep up on the latest sportswear, the fastest shoes or the best diet trends. But who ever thinks about what your feet, especially your toes, do when you run? Every run starts with a step. Thus, this action is the starting point for improving your speed and step frequency. In expert circles, the runner’s gait is known as the “magic moment.” “The trick during the stance phase is to actively push off the ground as quickly and as powerfully as possible, so you start the running cycle with momentum rather than having to rely solely on your muscles to lift your leg. You should dig your toes into the ground and push off, rolling off the big toe, into the next step,” explains running expert Sascha. The relatively short ground contact reduces the stress on your joints and improves your entire running form, thus making you faster.

Young man running over a bridge.

Your foot has to absorb a lot of force
Running subjects our feet to tremendous forces. The body has to withstand loads of up to ten times its own body weight. And compensate for them on a relatively small surface. This weight must be absorbed by the tendons, ligaments and muscles. Problems often occur when these become overworked.

Common problems
Runners frequently suffer from stabbing pains in the inner insertion of the heel after periods of inactivity like sleeping. This pain often radiates along the sole of the foot towards the big toe. Sometimes, symptoms already begin while you are running. “Most of the time, this is caused by an inflammation of the plantar aponeurosis (plantar fasciitis). The plantar aponeurosis is located on the sole of the foot between the heel and the metatarsophalangeal joints and maintains tension in the arch of the foot when you run. A dynamic running technique takes advantage of this tension to achieve a high step frequency,” says the expert.

Causes of midfoot overloading

  • Increasing your running volume too quickly. Running more takes time. You need to go slow to give your muscles, ligaments and tendons time to get used to the higher loads. This way your performance will improve accordingly to meet the new demands. If you increase the volume or intensity of your running too quickly, you run the risk of overloading the areas under stress. “That’s why you should increase your training carefully and make sure to work in plenty of recovery time,” emphasizes Sascha.
  • Improper footwear. A good shoe should ensure that the forces generated by running can be used entirely for the purposes of forward propulsion. If the running shoe does not provide the foot with adequate support, the foot can quickly become overstrained due to the constant stress of the additional work. What you are looking for is a running shoe that gives your foot the stability it needs without restricting a dynamic style of running.
  • Poorly developed muscles and imbalances. In the end, the foot has to compensate for what the body lacks in the way of muscle stability. When the foot itself lacks the necessary basic tension, the plantar fascia stands under continuous stress, which can lead to irritation and later inflammation.

Muscular imbalances between the hip flexor muscles, the lower back muscles and a general lack of core stability can also create problems with the plantar aponeurosis.     

Sascha’s treatment tips
So, it’s happened. Your foot hurts and you need fast relief. Running expert and coach Sascha has four tips on hand for you.

          • Consult your physician: Pain is always a clear signal that something isn’t right with your body. Have a sports physician examine you and discuss possible treatment options.
          • Pain calls for rest: As long as you are in acute pain, your foot requires rest. This is the only way to let the inflammation go down and to avoid developing any incorrect compensatory movements in your running form.
          • Rely on alternatives: Do other sports for your endurance training like swimming, cycling, inline skating or aqua jogging. This way you stay in shape and might even develop some new motor skills which you can use later in your running.
          • Take care of the center of your pain: Massage the sole of your foot with a ball. This stimulates blood flow, keeps the aponeurosis flexible and promises quick pain relief.

Plantar fasciitis usually heals completely, but sometimes it can take months… so be patient!

How to avoid problems in the future
After the symptoms have completely subsided, it is time to rethink your training and eliminate the source of the problems.

              • Start back nice and easy. Give your body time to build up again to your previous level of performance. Also, make sure to work in plenty of recovery time.
              • Regularly perform stretching and feet strengthening exercises for the muscles of your lower legs and feet.

You can improve your foot stability with the following two exercises:

And you can strengthen your core with this exercise:

Stretching also plays a big role, so don’t forget about it. Try something like the exercise in the following video:

Work on your running form and try to develop a relaxed and low-impact running technique. Good luck and have fun!



Sascha Wingenfeld Sascha, health trainer & active triathlete, has been coaching runners from beginners to professionals for over 10 years. "I love my job and I love running." View all posts by Sascha Wingenfeld »