10 Foot Problems Made Worse By Exercise

Foot Problems That You Shouldn't Exercise Through

It's not best to exercise through foot problems. Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

If you exercise then you probably have had foot pain at some point another.  Unless the foot pain is debilitating many will try to push through the pain, hoping that the foot problem will simply resolve.  However, there are some foot problems that if not identified and properly addressed can lead to chronic injury, more down-time, and possible surgery.   

Here’s the list of 10 foot problems where exercise can make the problems worse:

  1. Plantar Fasciitis
  2. Morton's Neuroma
  3. Metatarsalgia
  4. Bunions
  5. Hammer Toes
  6. Metatarsal Stress Fractures
  7. Achilles Tendinitis
  8. Ankle Sprains
  9. Posterior Tibial Tendinits
  10. Calluses and Corns

Plantar Fasciitis (Heel Pain)

Plantar Fasciitis is heel pain located at the bottom and is worse with first few steps after inactivity. Nucleus Medical Art, Inc. / Getty Images

Plantar fasciitis, or heel pain located on the bottom of the foot, is the result of inflammation of the supporting ligament that stabilizes the arch.  Plantar fasciitis affects 10% of the general population.  Over-pulling of this plantar fascia ligament can cause a microtearing where the ligament attached to the bone.  While stretching is a key component into the treatment regimen for plantar fasciitis, the foot still needs to rest and excessive activity can just prolong symptoms or make it worse.  It is possible to fully rupture the ligament, which is uncommon and tends to occur in  high level athletes.  Simple plantar fasciitis treatments include rest, ice, deep massage, stretching and arch supports can get plantar fasciitis resolved.  

Morton’s Neuroma

Morton's Neuroma commonly affects the ball of the foot, just behind the 3rd and 4th toes. Glow Wellness / Getty Images

A Morton’s Neuroma is a condition where a nerve becomes inflamed on the bottom of the forefoot, just below the 3rd and 4th toes.  Common causes are tight fitting shoes, high heels, overuse and injury.  Symptoms may involve a burning and/or tingling sensation.  Some may get the sensation that feels as if their sock is rolled up in the shoe.  Many people are unclear about Morton’s neuroma tend to try to exercise through the discomfort.  Because the nerve is inflamed activity and pressure may prolong and worsen symptoms.  Simple Morton's neuroma treatments involve rest, ice, padding area with metatarsal-type pads and/or orthotics. Sometimes Morton's neuroma surgery may be indicated.   


Metatarsalgia is inflammation of the bones that make up the ball of the foot.. Jeannot Olivet / Getty Images

Pain in ball of the foot (Metatarsalgia) is the result of inflammation of the ligaments and/or bones that connect the toes to the rest of the foot.  Metatarsalgia generally is felt on the bottom of the foot and can be localized into one area or spread across the width of the forefoot.  When localized, metatarsalgia commonly involves the area just behind the 2nd toe.  Because the ball of the foot is where all the body weight passes through for propulsion with walking and running, it tends to be difficult to successfully treat without rest and taking pressure off the area (with pads and/or arch supports).  Unchecked metatarsalgia can become a chronic problem and lead to ligament ruptures and metatarsal stress fractures.   


Bunions can rub against the shoe and get irritated with exercise.. Dr. Neal Blitz / www.BunionSurgeryNY.com

A bunion, medically called hallux valgus, is a knobby boney prominence on the inside of the foot at the base of the big toe.   The enlarged area can rub against the shoe and cause pain, swelling and in some cases blisters.  While bunions are a common foot problem (more frequently affecting women) exercise can awaken symptoms, especially if the bunion presses directly on the shoe.  Simple bunion treatments such as bunion pads, toe spacers and/or arch supports may alleviate the symptoms allowing for pain-free exercise. Bunion surgery may be indicated if the bunion pain persists despite treatment.   

Hammer Toes

Hammer toes are buckled toes and they can rub against the tops of shoes when exercising. Jupiterimages / Getty Images

Buckled toes, also known as hammer toes or claw toes, are structural problems of the toes.  Hammer toes can be genetic and/or develop from instability created in a ball of the foot after ligament damage.  Hammer toes can be painful where the prominent bone rub against the shoes causing friction.  The presence of hammer toes can also worsen pain in the ball of the foot (metatarsalgia).  Exercise can acutely irritate any prominent bones in the toes and simple treatments such as padding, shoes with a wide toe box and/or arch supports may help.  Avoiding hammer toe symptoms can result in worsening of the digital deformities over time.

Metatarsal Stress Fractures

Metatarsal Stress Fractures can require casts and crutches, especially if progresses onto full thickness fracture. Kallista Images / Getty Images

The metatarsal bones are the bones that make up the front of the foot, located just behind the toes to the arch.  These bones can become bruised, due to repetitive trauma and biomechanical stress.  A break that occurs but does not show up on xrays is a stress fracture.  Metatarsal stress fractures may be associated with pain, swelling and/or redness.  Exercising on a stress fracture can progress onto an actual break where the bone becomes cracked or broken through-and-through.  Forefoot pain should be properly evaluated before engaging in any contact activity with the foot.  Treatment of metatarsal stress fractures can involve wearing a special shoe to casting with crutches.  

Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles Tendinitis can be worsened by overuse, leading to microscopic tearing and tendon thickening.. Jeannot Olivet / Getty Images

The Achilles tendon, which is located just behind the ankle, is susceptible to overuse injuries. The Achilles tendon is responsible for lifting the heel of the ground, and important part of walking.    Inflammation of the Achilles tendon may cause redness, swelling and/or pain.  Running and jumping can particularly aggravate the Achilles.  Exercise with ongoing Achilles tendinitis can lead to microtears of the tendon and lead to chronic thickening of the tendon, and possibly rupture.  Simple treatments to alleviate Achilles tendinitis include rest, ice, ankle straps and/or heel lifts.  Stretching of the Achilles tendon is a cornerstone of treatment.  

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains can take months to heal and exercise may affect the stability of the ligaments. PeopleImages.com / Getty Images

An ankle sprain is best defined as injury to the supporting ligaments to the ankle, most commonly affecting the outside of the ankle.   Acute ankle sprains may result in discontinuity of the ligaments and something that may require urgent medical intervention.  Ankle sprains can take a 2-3 months to improve and exercising with an sprain may result in prolonging the healing process, or stretching out the ligaments, resulting in instability.  

Posterior Tibial Tendinitis

Posterior tibial tendonitis involves the inside of the foot and ankle. Chronic inflammation may lead to tendon rupture and aquired flat feet.. Kris Ubach and Quim Roser / Getty Images

Inflammation of the main supporting tendon of the arch is called the posterior tibial tendon.  This tendon winds around the inside of the ankle and onto the bottom of the inside of the foot.  Chronic injury to the posterior tibial tendon may result in rupture of this tendon, ultimately leading to flat feet.  Because this tendon is so important for everyday use of the extremity, it is susceptible to overuse inuuries in athletic people.  This is a common problem in runners and should not be neglected.  Arch supports and ankle braces are common treatments and chronic issues can go onto surgery.  

Calluses and Corns

Dry patches of skin (corns and calluses) could indicate a larger structural or biomechanical foot problem.. Vintage Images / Getty Images

Excessive patches or collection of dry skin may result in corns or calluses, and can be a symptom of the a biomechanical or structural buildup.  Bunions and hammer toes can develop calluses and corns.  Calluses on the bottom of the forefoot may be associated with metatarsalgia.  The areas of dry skin can be painful by themselves.  Exercise can worsen pressure spots on the foot and exacerbate these areas.  Keeping these dry areas moisturized and paired down may alleviate symptoms.  

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