On the Run with RUNGRL: Runner Problems

A woman bends down to tie her shoe before running

In Episode 2 of Fleet Feet’s new video series, On the Run with RUNGRL, two avid runners, April Anderson and Brittany Henderson, both in Washington, D.C., discuss common problems they face as runners. Hear about some of their top running concerns and how they prevent these issues from disrupting their commitment to hitting the road.

Foot Pain

For ambitious athletes, the saying “no pain, no gain” may sound all too cliche. But experienced runners know that once you start to put in regular miles, you’re likely to develop running pains at some point. In this episode, Brittany and April share their struggles with foot pain, numbness, and throbbing.

“At night [my toe] throbs after I run more than five miles,” Brittany says.

Having had issues with feet herself, April picks up on the fact that the isolated impact may be causing the throbbing in Brittany’s feet. A combination of ill-fitting shoes and/or longer toenails can lead to pain when the toe hits the front of the shoe repeatedly during a run. Changing shoes definitely improved these symptoms for Brittany.

Brittany from RUNGRL runs alone on a path

“Sometimes, I lose feeling in my feet entirely,” April admits. “During the run, everything is sunshine and rainbows until you can’t feel your feet.”

According to Miriam Salloum, MPT, COMT, OCS, there are three common forms of nerve entrapment that can cause phantom foot symptoms or pains like these: “One with ankle sprains and inversion or supination of the foot, one due to compression on the top of the foot, and one on the inside of the ankle bone with eversion or pronation.”

Salloum explains that the deep peroneal nerve can cause burning or cramping on the top of the foot that zings into the first toe. If it’s injured higher up the lateral leg the runner can have a condition known as foot drop, when the foot feels weak or unable to lift up toward the shin. But most commonly, peroneal nerve compression can simply come from tying your laces too tight. If you struggle with this type of pain, try loosening your laces or changing the lace pattern to open the toe box. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome at the wrist, the nerves in the ankle can become compressed, causing tarsal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel is a compression on the posterior tibial nerve that can cause numbness, pain and burning in the bottom of the foot. Salloum says that runners with a high amount of pronation in their ankles or who experience more high-impact issues are more likely to experience tarsal tunnel syndrome. This could mean they have increased hip weakness, increased weight, or under-supportive footwear. Running on a surface that angles the foot inward can also cause this problem.

If you have pain and burning on the outside and bottom of your foot, the sural nerve may be the culprit. The sural nerve runs under the outside ankle bone, and is highly involved with inversion ankle sprains. It can become compressed when you run on a surface that tilts the foot to the outside, or in a runner with high arches.

If you find yourself wincing from foot pain, Runner’s Knee, or any potential injury, take some time to assess the pain. Is it something you can run through? Or should you consider seeing a professional to make sure it’s not more serious?

Start by making simple modifications as needed to prevent further stress on your body. And remember it’s always a good idea to take a day off or seek a professional opinion when severe pain persists.

The Wrong Shoes

Issues in the feet tend to travel up as well, as Brittany noted.

“I was having issues with my arches and my knees...so when I trained for the Chicago Marathon, my knee went to shreds,” she says. “From the training and from training in really crappy shoes.”

Training or racing in ill-fitting or worn out shoes can lead to even bigger problems for runners. Common issues include plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and general body pains. To help prevent problems like these, we recommend stopping by a Fleet Feet running store and getting properly fitted according to your stride, size and running style.

The best running shoes will support your unique alignment and provide cushion while standing or walking. If you’re like Brittany and frequently notice new aches or pains after running, it may mean it’s time for a new pair of shoes.

On average, runners can expect their shoes’ life expectancy to extend to about 300 miles. If you’re trying a new style or brand, it’s always best to go shopping in-person instead of guessing online. Book a Fitting at your local Fleet Feet and discover your perfect fit.

April from RUNGRL fixes her hair before a run

Hair Care

“I work in a job where there’s a lot of face-to-face [interaction]. So I have to run, shower and then be ready to see people,” April says. Her go-to style is a low maintenance twist, which preserves her curls and keeps them stylish after a weekday run.

For Black women, hair care and maintenancecan be one of the primary deterrents from running. Staying active means coming up with a plan not only for your training, but also for your post-workout maintenance.

Runners with locs like Brittany’s know that hair care isn’t as low-maintenance as it appears.


“I honestly thought when I loc’d my hair, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to be able to run every day...It’s going to be low maintenance,” says Brittany. “Absolutely not.”

She goes on to explain that since she doesn’t have the luxury of washing her locs every day, she has developed her own process to keep her hair fresh between runs and between washes.

She recommends tying up locs with an elastic or pulling them back with a headband to protect from breakage. Many runners with natural hair, braids and locs also use oils and detoxifying scalp products to maintain freshness and preserve scalp health with frequent workouts.

April from RUNGRL gets ready for a run

Chafing

When athletic bottoms, sports bras or other gear causes too much friction while exercising, you get these nasty burn-like marks known as chafing. Whether under your arms, across your waist or between the thighs, the best way to prevent chafing is to protect your epidermis by lubricating and avoiding certain irritating fabrics.

Before taking off on a run, products like Body Glide and Squirrel’s Nut Butter can reduce the amount of friction between your apparel and your skin. It also helps to wear loose-fitting running clothes like Brooks Chaser shorts or tanks and tops that don’t hug your underarms. Additionally, moisture-wicking fabrics can also help reduce the irritation that can come from wet fabrics like cotton.

In the video, April prefers an all-natural option to fight chafing on runs.

“Coconut oil is great for your hair, your skin, and your chafing!” she says. Although, she admits it was a trial and error process that led her to the common household item for her runner’s problems.

Similar to a balm or butter, you may use coconut oil on your groin area, to soothe under tight leggings or even around your ankles and achilles to prevent unnecessary friction.

Journaling

One of the best ways to overcome any runner problems is to take notes after your workout in a training log. What felt great? What did you wear? What kind of terrain or time of day did you run? Being able to track yourself will help you identify some of the causes of your pains and irritations so that you can maximize comfort and avoid irritants.

Popular apps like Strava have a section for writing notes after you log your miles, or you can keep it old school and use a real journal.

Watch the second episode of On the Run with RUNGRL to learn from these everyday runners and see what advice they offer to overcome these hurdles.

Stay tuned for upcoming episodes from RUNGRL about common topics and issues faced by everyday runners.

The information on this website is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.

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