What are runner's feet?

What are runner's feet?

What are runner’s feet?

When you get into running, the last thing you want to experience is runner’s feet. Runner’s feet can happen to anyone who runs and can start with a simple blister or something a bit more painful.

Some runners will find that when they are running they have overpronation and need overpronation running shoes to help them run better. Using the best running shoes for overpronation means less chance of an injury. 

Orthotic insoles are often used in running. Orthotic insoles for heel pain can help runners who suffer with pain when running. Alternatively, if you have flat feet, orthotic insoles for flat feet might be your answer. A large number of runners have flat feet and insoles for runners with flat feet are popular. 

If you suffer with Morton's neuroma this can make running painful. There is treatment for Morton's neuroma to help you get back on the road again. There are also Morton’s neuroma exercises you can do to relieve the pain. 

It can be stressful struggling with runner’s feet, especially if you are training for an event.

What causes runner’s feet?

The wrong sized shoe

If you are wearing a shoe that doesn’t fit then this can lead to issues with your feet. Blisters, calluses and corns can all happen if you are wearing a shoe that doesn’t fit properly. 

The surface that you run on

Running on certain surfaces can put you at higher risk of a foot injury. Wet, slippery mud is difficult to run on and can increase your chance of injury, especially to the achilles tendon and calf muscles. Running on unsafe surfaces can also put pressure on the nerves.

Damp shoes/socks

Running in damp shoes or socks can lead to things such as blisters, mould growth and athlete's foot. 

Anatomy when running 

As you run, the first and fifth metatarsal bones in your feet use their range of motions to adapt to the surface you are running on. During running, the function of the foot changes from shock absorption to propulsion; this means the foot stiffens to lift your body weight against gravity for each stride. 

Gait analysis is a way of assessing how the foot and ankles move when running. It is a great way to determine which shoes are right for you when running as each runner's movement can vary.

Effects of runner’s feet and why you should care for your feet before and after a run

Toenail damage

It is common for runners to develop damaged toenails from running. Many runners will develop black toenails. Black toenails are common with the big toe but can affect any of the other nails. It happens when your toenail repeatedly comes into forceful contact with the toe boxes in your shoe. [1]

In some cases, runners will lose their toenails, however, it isn’t usually anything to worry about and they will grow back over time. 

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis happens when the plantar fascia tissue becomes inflamed. The pain can be felt at the bottom of the foot and around the arch of the foot.

With plantar fasciitis the pain can often feel better during exercise, however, it returns after resting. [2]


Blisters happen when the skin on the foot experiences friction. It is common for runners to get blisters from time to time due to repetitive movement in their feet. Blister plasters can help to protect and heal the blister.

If you find you are getting blisters frequently you might need to change the shoes that you are running in. 

Hallux rigidus 

Hallux rigidus is also known as a stiff big toe. Runners can suffer with this due to long term overuse of the MTP joint. [3]

Stress fracture

Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone that can happen due to repetitive force. Runners at all levels are at a higher risk of developing a stress fracture. 

More than 1 in 5 runners will end up with a stress fracture. [4]


Metatarsalgia is a condition where the ball of the foot becomes inflamed and painful. This is something that usually eases by itself and doesn’t require medical treatment.

How to treat and prevent runner’s feet

Wear shoes that are the correct size

It is important that you wear shoes that fit your feet properly when you are running. The main benefit of a stability shoe is that it will support the foot and help to prevent damage and injury. 

Orthotic insoles 

Orthotic insoles are shoe inserts that can help you if you suffer from foot pain. They can help a range of issues from a high arch to providing you with relief from plantar fasciitis. They have the ability to help reduce pain when you are running.

Ensure that feet are clean and dry after a run 

Keeping your feet clean and dry after a run is important for preventing athlete's foot. If you don’t clean and dry your feet properly this can create the perfect environment for fungus to grow. 

Ice feet after a long run

Icing your feet after a long run can help to reduce the swelling. It also helps your feet to heal. When you ice your feet after running, do not do it for any longer than 20 minutes as you could end up with frostbite.

Icing your feet after a long run can help to reduce the swelling. It also helps your feet to heal. When you ice your feet after running, do not do it for any longer than 20 minutes as you could end up with frostbite. (5) https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20801846/how-to-ice-a-running-injury/

Wear moisture wicking socks

Moisture wicking socks can help prevent minor injuries in runners. They work by pulling away moisture from your feet. Moisture wicking socks are perfect if you are susceptible to getting blisters when you are running.

See a podiatrist

If you find that you are still suffering from runner’s feet and nothing is helping you should see a podiatrist. A podiatrist will be able to diagnose and treat any issues you have. They can also recommend the right shoes for you.

Although it’s not uncommon to experience foot pain when you are a runner, it can be an inconvenience and uncomfortable. You should pay attention to how your feet feel when you are running and after. 

Some problems are such as blisters are usually minor and with the right support, you should be able to continue with your training. On the other hand, injuries such as a stress fracture will take longer for you to recover from. 

If you experience any issues when you are running, it is a good idea to rest until your symptoms improve, or see a foot specialist if they remain after a couple of weeks.