“Surgery” is a dirty word if you’re a runner. It could mean weeks, if not months, away from the trails, parks, or wherever it is you most enjoy going for a jog. It’s something most folks want to avoid at all costs.
Our take? We’re not sure if we’d avoid it at all costs. But we get where you’re coming from, and we agree. Whenever possible, it’s best to deal with your treatment without surgery, using only conservative therapies.
Fortunately, the vast majority of running injuries will not require surgery, especially if you remember to do the following two things:
- See your foot doctor at the first sign of trouble—not after months of pain getting worse and worse!
- Actually follow your doctor’s advice when he or she gives it to you!
Let’s break that down at least a bit, shall we?
Running Injuries: A Quick Overview
Running can be great exercise. It’s an efficient way to burn calories. It’s great for improving cardiovascular fitness and endurance. It builds strong bones. You can do it anytime and anywhere, without needing a commute or a gym membership.
And hey, for a lot of us it’s actually fun.
But runners are also at high risk of injuries, particularly to the feet, ankles, and lower legs.
Running puts heavy impact loads on feet, and over time that begins to add up—especially if you have poor form, poor shoes, push yourself too hard, or don’t give yourself enough rest days to recover.
While sudden and traumatic injuries (like ankle sprains) are of course possible if you take an ill-timed stumble, a significant majority of running injuries fall into the “overuse” category:
- Heel pain
- Achilles tendinitis
- Stress fractures
- Shin splints
- Runner’s knee
To reiterate: the vast majority of the time, these injuries can be treated conservatively—no surgery necessary. If and when surgery becomes a consideration, it’s typically the result of stubbornness.
Look, we get it. It’s hard to dial back the tempo for a while and give your body the time and space it needs to heal—especially if running is just what you do.
But if you keep pushing and pushing yourself through the pain, avoiding your doctor’s advice (or avoiding your doctor entirely)? That’s how chronic tendonitis turns into a tendon rupture, or how stress fractures progress into clean breaks. Now you’re in a much bigger world of hurt—and surgery may be your best (or only) option.
Tackling Running Injuries Conservatively
First Aid at Home
Relatively minor aches and pains after a run are, of course, pretty routine. We’re not saying you have to come visit us every time you get a little bump or a little soreness! That would be a little much.
That said, if you find that runs are consistently painful for you and interfering with day-to-day life, it’s a sign that you need to take a step back and make some adjustments. Follow RICE therapy guidelines (rest, ice, therapy, elevation) for a few days until the pain and swelling goes away.
If the pain goes away, restart slowly. You might have bitten off more than you can chew, and your body needs time to adjust to higher levels of stress. Only increase your mileage or pace by 10% per week.
If the pain doesn’t go away or keeps coming back, don’t take a chance on your long-term health. Stop in and see us for guidance and treatment.
Treatment from Your Doctor
In many cases, changing your shoe gear can make a massive difference—because, unfortunately, many runners are being let down by their shoes! While we don’t believe you should have to take out a second mortgage just to afford a pair of sneakers, it is important for any runner to have a good and relatively new pair of running shoes (as in, specifically for running) that fit their feet and running style correctly.
If you have a deeper problem with your foot shape itself—for example, flat arches—simply switching shoes may not be enough. In these cases, we’ll typically fit you with custom orthotics to wear inside your shoes when you run.
You can think of custom orthotics like glasses or contacts for your lower limbs. They fit your feet like a glove (because they’re made to your exact specifications) and give your feet and ankles the correct cushioning and support—in the correct locations—to do their job correctly. No more excess strain, no more excess pain.
Other treatments we may prescribe to help you beat the pain include oral medications, injections, and physical therapy. Of course, specific procedures chosen may depend on the specific nature of your injury, as well as your training schedule and lifestyle goals.
For tougher pain, we are proud to offer more advanced sport injury therapies that will get you back up to speed even more quickly. This includes regenerative technologies such as extracorporeal pulse activation treatment, or EPAT—also known more generally as “shockwave therapy.” To make a long story short, EPAT uses guided energy pulses to trigger your body’s own natural healing and repair responses, dramatically shortening recovery times for a wide variety of running-related injuries.
Protecting Your Feet from Further Injury
So you gave us a call and made an appointment, got your treatment plan, followed it diligently, and now you’re feeling better—all without surgery. Great!
Here are a few quick tips to help keep your feet in top shape so you don’t have to come back again for more treatment!
- Keep wearing those great running shoes and, if they were prescribed to you, orthotics. Replace your running shoes when the midsoles start to wear down—usually at around 250-300 miles of use.
- Stretch your feet, tendon, and calf muscles regularly.
- Start slow with any new running or exercise plan—and, as we said earlier, only ramp up the intensity by 10% per week at most.
- Try switching your running route to terrain that’s either softer or a little more level. Lots of hills and concrete are harder on your feet than flat, soft trails.
- It’s not always a great idea to run 5+ days per week, even if you’re training for a marathon. If you find yourself regularly in pain, scale back on running a few days a week and cross-train in something low-impact during your off days. Going for a swim or riding your bike are great alternatives.
- Do some strength training, particularly in your feet, legs, and hips. This helps keep ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones strong and resistant to injury.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. This one is pretty straightforward—the heavier you are, the more wear and tear on your feet with each step.
If your feet are hurting from running, don’t be stubborn—call the Absolute Foot Care Specialists at (702) 839-2010. We promise that we’ll work hard to get you back to your regular mileage—pain free—as quickly as possible. You can also book an appointment directly online, or complete an online contact form.