What's causing my foot pain? by Phoebe Machin | Physit19 Apr 2018

Exercise is meant to be good for you right? Well yes, but it may not seem like it if your feet are suddenly in pain.

There are four extremely common reasons for experiencing foot pain after exercise. Each type of pain is usually only temporary and will settle down in a couple of days. However, if the pain is significant or prolonged, it’s recommended you visit your GP. They may then refer to you a physiotherapist who will be able to recommend some helpful exercises.

Main reasons for foot pain include:

Plantar fasciitis

No, it’s nothing to do with gardening.

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the band of tissue underneath your foot, around the arch, becomes inflamed. It can result in moderate to severe pain in your heel and at the bottom of your foot when you run, walk, or exercise. It may also be a longer term condition that requires management.

Unfortunately there’s no particular rhyme or reason as to why someone might develop plantar fasciitis, so it’s hard to know how to prevent it. People who have tight calf muscles, or do a lot of strenuous exercise can be more prone to it, especially if they have naturally high arches or flat feet. That’s why it’s important to choose well-fitting exercise trainers to absorb the shock.

If you haven’t exercised for a while, or you want to step it up a gear, start slowly and build up with low impact sports such as swimming. You may also find calf stretches and walking around in your bare feet can help too. Not outside in the winter though obviously!

Tendon pain (tendinopathy)

Achilles tendonTendinopathy is felt as pain when a tendon in your foot or ankle becomes swollen, torn, or damaged. A common place to have it is in the Achilles tendon, although it can affect any tendons throughout the ankle or top of the foot.

Tendinopathy can be the result of an injury or related to another chronic condition. If it’s something you’re prone to, make sure your shoes or trainers don’t rub the back of your foot or ankle, also make sure you warm up and warm down properly when you exercise.

Sprained ankle

Very common if you fall awkwardly or overdo an exercise session; a sprained ankle means the ligaments around your ankle have stretched and torn. It can be so painful it may feel like your ankle is broken, and is likely to be bruised and puffy. Sporting injuries can also be the cause of a sprained ankle which is why it’s important to wear the best shoes for the job.

Ice, or a bag of frozen peas (wrapped in a towel to prevent ice burn) will help if applied to the swollen ankle area. Compression, elevation and plenty of rest should have you right as rain again in a few days. Over the counter pain killers may help with the discomfort too.


Difficult to say, and even harder to spell, metatarsalgia is often associated with energetic sports, such as badminton, tennis, aerobics and running, and is felt as pain in the ball of your foot. It affects the metatarsals, which are the bones that join the toes to the ankle, and can be extremely painful.

If you’re a little on the heavy side, losing weight will help the situation by reducing the workload on your feet. It may be tempting to hit the gym hard, but be careful and build up your exercise routine slowly. Make sure to combine high energy exercise with gentler forms, such as swimming and cycling.

Metatarsalgia is easy to treat with a cold compress and plenty of rest. If the pain is persistent or gets worse make an appointment with your doctor for further investigation. You may need some treatment from a physiotherapist or benefit from special exercises, tailor-made insoles, or a course of steroids.

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