Foot pain after running? – Understanding why is simpler than you think

          I am a runner, I have been since I was 14 and I like to see myself running like a carefree kid even when I am old and surrounded by grandchildren. Then, I look at lots of my fellow runners, read statistics, check out what most running shoe brands have to offer and I feel like banging my head against the wall. Why? Because foot pain after running as well as while running has become the norm. This is totally unacceptable for someone like me who thinks that running, just like any other sports, should make you spark joy, and kindle a sense of freedom in you. Not pain.

The (in)volution of our feet and the dangerous path we are walking on

           What really makes me furious about this is that the vast majority of people and doctors (!) are totally convinced that the feet are the source of the problem. They believe that feet are needy creatures desperately looking for attention, extra-care and protection. And by this they mean a lot of protection, because feet are so delicate and fragile, right?

Dangerous path

Perhaps they think that the feet they’re talking about belong to a new human species that evolved over the past 50 years or so. This must make them feel quite special because Homo sapiens has been the only human species on Earth for about 40.000 years. Now, let’s welcome the new arrival!
Interestingly, for some strange evolutionary reason, they can use those feet only when wearing specific protective cases designed by engineers and marketing experts. Ah, these cases, aka shoes, unfortunately don’t work that well either, as they continuously cause pain to the feet… Something is telling me that these new humans are doomed to exctintions.

Let’s stop putting the blame on feet. Once and for all.

          I cannot afford to let them go extinct without trying to take action and change the course of events. I am saying this not because I feel like a sort of SuperGreta Thunberg but simply because I know that the solution is very simple, right at your feet.  Although feet are among the most misunderstood parts of our body, the medical and sports community believe they drilled down all the secrets of foot anatomy and bio-mechanics. If that’s true, then why do 50% of runners get injured so badly every year that they end up missing important events? Why do runners all have the same foot issues (knee pain, plantar fasciatis, etc)? Why do most people find so difficult to stand or walk even for a relatively short period of time?

Running injury

The answer is that feet just want to be left alone as they were born perfectly designed to do their job. We don’t need to tell them that the arch should be lifted, the heel must be elevated and that the bottom should rest on ultra-padded insoles. It’s like taking the David by Michelangelo and removing some marble from the hands (“Eh no, way too big”), some from the abs (“You make me envious otherwise”), some from the feet (“Btw, where are your shoes?!”). It’s ok to find beauty subjective but when it comes to tens of thousands of years of evolution, we all should be asking ourselves a few questions before grabbing the scalpel and disfigure our feet.

Walking with the devil without even realizing it

          What’s scary about this is that such a process of self-harm has been happening almost completely unnoticed for decades, to the point that it looks like it’s something we all have to go through during our running experience. The outcome is that by now non-runners say “Do you know how bad running is for your knees?“. Or, how many runners have I encountered who had to give up on their racing goals for inexplicable foot/knee pains?
The truth is that modern running shoes are the main culprit for this epidemic of foot issues and we can easily extend this statement to almost any other modern shoe designed for walking, hiking, etc. As I discussed in a previous post, you can’t ignore feet for too long before your overall health starts being affected, simply because, anatomically and functionally speaking, feet are really the foundation of our body.

Feet are sensitive creatures

Foot sole

          Did you know that the skin is the largest organ of our body? On average it takes up 22 square feet (2 square meters, half a table tennis). Impressive, uh? Now, consider this: of such a huge surface your hands and feet are in theory the only surface that is designed to physically interact with the outer world. It’s not a random occurrence that hands and feet are the regions with the highest concentration of sensory receptors. So, why keep our feet in quarantine most of the time? Why preclude them from giving their contribution to our everyday life?

Some scienc-y stuff about feet

          Feet are designed to communicate with the rest of the body through these sensory receptors as well as several other mechanoreceptors present in muscles, joints and tendons. There is a fundamental neuro-muscular mechanism called proprioception (literally, the perception of the self) through which the brain is able to instantly collect information about position and movement of the body. There are ways to trick the brain, though. Regarding feet, one effective way to accomplish this is to isolate the sole of the foot from the ground with thick padding. By doing so, the feet become completely unaware of what’s really happening outside with the consequence that the amount of information they can now send the brain is close to zero. All the instantenous adjustments of both the ankle/knee position and the tension of leg and foot muscles that should take place simply don’t. The brain can’t send the right electrical signals back to those regions to compensate. The outcome is that at every step we take, the force of the impact ripples from the foot all the way up to the hips and spine in a highly disorder fashion causing damage, slowly but surely.
This is not the end of the story. In fact, unlike hands, feet are subject to about 5 lb/in2 (0.4 kg/cm2) when standing, which is roughly equivalent of placing a 2 liter-bottle on your thumb. If you walk, run or jump, this pressure can increase several folds (ouch!)! Whenever such pressure is not properly distributed on the bottom of the foot and within the inner foot structures (bones, muscles and tendons), we observe the emergence of issues, such as localized inflammation (in the heel, the plantar fascia, the arch, etc.) or microfractures in the bone components, just to mention the most common. Ouch.

Free me

The foot has such a peculiar shape for a reason

          The ball of the foot with all its fat pad and strong joints absorb the very first impact, the arch bends like a wooden plank allowing the whole foot to spread and distribute the impact further as the heel goes down, in turn the bones (cuboid, metatarsal and cuneiform) shift slightly but significantly to complete the motion. Of course, along with this there is much more happening in the ankles, knees, etc. (check out next posts for more). But this should suffice to show you that when the foot is cramped inside a shoes that alter foot biomechanics, blood flow and disrupt proprioception, that’s when feet start suffering.
Every time you go for a run with your highly technological shoes , your feet go through this deleterious process about a hundred times a minute (!). By the time you get to the end of your jog, your feet are asking you for mercy. Ah, you get a similar result when you spend the whole day standing or walking in shoes that prevent your feet from functioning as described above. Feet are sturdy bioengineering devices, so for some time (weeks or even years) they might hold up but be sure that sooner or later all that misuse will knock on the door and present you the bill.

We need to free our feet, there’s no other solution

          Fortunately, Homo sapiens are smart creatures. Some of them realized that by stripping away all that extra material from modern shoes and basically, going back to the origin is a totally viable strategy to rescue the feet. This is how minimalist shoes were born. I remember the first time I wore them. Oddly enough, I felt confused. The confusion increased when I went for a run. In hindsight, I understood what happened: my brain-feet connection was restored after 20 years spent in modern running shoes. I came to the shocking realization that my feet had never been the problem, the pain I often felt represented smoke signal my feet were sending to warn me. After that day, I could never wear modern shoes ever again.
The conclusion is that good minimalist shoes really solve the problem of foot pain, as they act on restoring proprioception and proper biomechanics. When all the subtle mechanisms I described function harmoniously, pleasure arises. Every step you take is a step of self-discovery. You begin to unveil the true potential of your feet once you plug them back into your body. Amazingly, this process of self-discovery happens simultaneously with a process of overall regeneration. The further along you go, the more you get addicted to being able to explore the world pain-free, knowing that you only need two things to succeed: good minimalist shoes and your passion.

Live wise. Live in motion.

Silvio

PS It’s time to discover the best minimalist shoes.

PPS Please share your thoughts with me, my friend.

8 thoughts on “Foot pain after running? – Understanding why is simpler than you think”

  1. Thanks for sharing this kind of article  because this article is extremely important to me.  you have shared about foot pain after running extreme according to me I am a Runner  and sometimes I face this kind of difficulties. in this article you have shared about this pain amazingly. Why are we facing foot pain after running and what is the main reason for that?  you have described this kind of thing stap by stap. I just want to say that thank you very much for this kind of article and definitely, I will share your article with my friends so that they can get some information about foot pain.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me, my fellow runner. I hope you will be willing to reconsider the fact that running should never be cause of pain, only pleasure and curiosity. It can definitely be a learning process with ups and downs but if you have the right tools (i.e. knowledge and minimalist shoes) you’ll be headed in the right direction. Feel free to reach out again!

      Reply
  2. First of all, thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful and informative article. I was looking for an article like this for a long time.

    I am a runner. It almost pains me to feel under my feet after running. I’ve been suffering from this problem for a long time. I love the fact that the footwear has been reviewed. After reading your article I have learned a lot about this. Hopefully, your recommendations will be in my head and I will reduce my foot pain. many thanks to the author of the article for his article I have benefited greatly by reading this.

    Once again, Thanks again for sharing this informative post. I will share the post with others. 😊

    Reply
    • Shami, thanks for your feedaback and for sharing with others.
      It’s my pleasure being able to share my experience with both fellow runners and non-runners. Unfortunately, too many runners are riddled with pains they can’t find a solution for, simply because the whole running shoes industry is sick and doesn’t want to take care of their customers… I hope we can start to make a change. 

      Reply
  3. Helooo thank you for writing on this awesome article, it has really been educating. Personally I have been a victim of foot pain so many times and I basically still don’t understand why I always encounter such pains especially when I engage in any sporting activity. As a matter of fact I think minimalist shoes will really be of help. Thanks once again for this article. 

    Reply
    • Hi Sheddy, feel free to explore more and most importantly, experience yourself the change minimalist shoes can make in your life. It’ll be eye-opening. Feel free to reach out to me! 

      Reply
  4. Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful article with us.In all the functions of the body, the legs have to rely on the feet for the least amount of walking and eating.f you go to a sport, you have a foot injury or you get a leg injury.It has to be more careful with the feet and good brand shoes for the feet.You have to pick it up so that it is easy to run if the shoes are worn and there is no pain in the legs.The human foot is like a car engine as long as it can do everything.Shoes are the main culprit for foot problems because many times the foot is damaged due to poor footwear.People do not reach their goals because of pain in the legs or in the hamstrings while lying down to play.Running causes a stress on the leg so the foot feels pain.After your article, everyone will be able to share their new experiences with you right after learning about running.

    Reply

Leave a Comment