Running has plenty of health benefits. It can help people improve heart health, lose or maintain weight, reduce stress, and boost mental health. And it’s one of those exercises that people can do at whatever pace feels best for them.

One of the downsides of running, however, is that you might eventually experience foot pain. The repeated stress running puts on the feet can eventually cause parts of feet and ankles to start aching. Sometimes elevating feet for a bit can help, while other times that foot pain is a sign of an underlying condition. If they can’t get the pain under control, many eventually find themselves heading to a podiatrist.

No matter if you are experiencing foot pain after running or if you’re working with a patient complaining of aching feet, here are some general tips on avoiding and treating foot pain.

Stretch before and after running

Runners might be in the habit of stretching out the muscles in their arms and legs before and after running, but they also need to stretch the muscles in their feet. This relaxes the muscles and increases their mobility. There are many stretches out there.

A simple one to try is sitting in a chair, crossing a leg over the opposite knee, then gently bending the toes up towards you until you feel the stretch of the plantar fascia. Another stretch is rolling a massage ball around the arch of your foot. This helps relax the muscles and is a good stretch to do after a run.

Wear proper footwear

Running shoes are different from sneakers. They have cushioning that is meant to help with shock absorption. They can help prevent injuries such as stress fractures, which are caused by the repetitive motions of running. Runners should buy shoes that are the right size and that are meant for the type of running the runner does.

Also, runners should remember to wear moisture-wicking socks. Wearing the right type of socks can prevent blisters. Runners should also get in the habit of washing and drying their feet after every run — this helps to prevent fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, which causes burning and itchy skin.

Rest and ice

It’s not uncommon for runners to experience pain and swelling after a long run. While this doesn’t necessarily indicate an injury, it is uncomfortable. Resting and elevating the legs can help with swelling. And for many people, elevating the legs just feels good. Another way to take care of swelling is with compression socks.

To help soothe aching feet, submerge the feet and lower legs in an ice bath for ten to fifteen minutes. This will help relieve sore muscles. Some athletes even chose to soak their entire body in an ice bath after hard workouts. Those that struggle with ice baths can apply an ice pack instead.

Know the signs of injury

Sometimes, minor aches and pains are just something a runner has to deal with. Other times, foot pain could be an indication of a more serious condition. The faster an injury is caught, the faster it can be treated, allowing the runner to get back on their feet.

Common foot injuries caused by running include plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, sprained ankles, metatarsalgia, and neuroma. If pain is lingering, shooting, or accompanied by swelling, there is likely an underlying condition. Instead of continuing to run, the person should seek medical treatment from a trainer, doctor, or podiatrist. Running on an aching foot will cause the problem to worsen.

Visit a podiatrist

If an injury is suspected, the runner may need to visit a podiatrist. The podiatrist can determine the cause of the pain and work with the person to develop a treatment plan. Referrals and online research can help ensure that people visit the right podiatrist.

Runners will need to visit a podiatrist that has experience with foot injuries. For example, Essex Union Podiatry – Experienced Podiatrists In NJ – clearly states on their website that they specialize in sports medicine. In most cases, podiatrists will try to develop an at-home treatment plan for the individual. However, for serious injuries or if other treatment methods fail, surgery may be required.

Final thoughts

Runners need to take careful care of their feet if they want to prevent injuries. However, sometimes injuries are unavoidable. If an injury does occur, the person needs to rest their feet and follow the directions of their medical professional. While a little pain and swelling are normal at times, constantly being in pain is not.