Running is one of the most popular and practiced sports in the world, with approximately 60 million people in the U.S. hitting the trails, parks and streets annually.
And with all that running and jogging, it’s not surprising that it’s also the main cause for many foot and ankle injuries. Paul Betschart, DPM, regularly treats patients that suffer from some sort of injury due to the sport.
Plantar fasciitis is the most common injury for a runner, and occurs when the strong band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot becomes irritated and inflamed. Runners get this when they have sudden increases in mileage, poor foot structure, or inappropriate running shoes.
Then there’s Achilles tendinitus, an inflammation of the Achilles tendon near the back of the heel, which is usually caused by repetitive stress to the tendon. Runners who add too much distance to their routine too fast can suffer from it. Another cause is tight calf muscles, so stretching before running is recommended.
Another common injury is shin splints, which often occurs when you change your running routine, such as going longer distances, increasing the amount of days you run in a week or just upping the pace too quickly. The pain occurs in the front or inside of the lower leg along the tibia, and can often be mistaken for a stress fracture.
With a stress fracture, Dr. Betschart explains that a small crack in the bone causes the pain and discomfort, and usually affects runners in their feet or shin. This is commonly caused by working too hard before your body gets used to a new activity. For those suffering, rest is vital as continued stress on the bone can lead to a more serious injury.
“Most of these are treated acutely with physical therapy, anti-inflammatories and an analysis of mechanics to see if they need any type of orthotics to control abnormal mechanics contributing to conditions,” Dr. Betschart says. “We approach most of these problems from a conservative standpoint before moving on to invasive treatment such as surgery.”
An innovative solution is stem cell treatments, which he uses in areas that don’t respond to other therapy and can help get patients back to activity faster.