Running is a great form of exercise that strengthens the heart, maintains bone and muscle mass, and aids in the regulation of blood pressure and glucose levels. While the benefits of running are numerous, the risks should not be ignored. In fact, runners may be prone to the development of swollen feet, both during -- and following -- an exercise session. Understanding the causes of swollen feet can be helpful when it comes to its management and prevention.
According to the American Council of Sports Medicine, overuse injuries -- like stress fractures, tendonitis and so on -- are the most serious cause of swollen feet in runners. Traditionally, overuse injuries occur as a result of increasing the intensity of exercise too quickly, or failing to get adequate amounts of rest. To avoid these conditions, runners should increase the intensity of their exercise by a maximum of 10 percent each week. Getting at least one day of rest a week can also be helpful when it comes to avoiding the development of an overuse injury.
During a run, gravity is constantly pulling the fluid away from your upper body and torso, and toward your feet. While short- to mid-distance runners will likely not suffer from fluid retention, those who run long-distances -- and may be on their feet for an hour or more -- are prone to the development of swollen feet. Taking a break and sitting down every few miles can improve blood circulation, and aids its return to the upper body. Wearing certain types of socks, known as compression stockings, can also be effective in maximizing blood flow and preventing fluid retention.
Serious runners know that properly-fitting footwear is crucial when it comes to maximizing performance. It should come as no surprise, then, that ill-fitting footwear not only impairs performance, but may also cause the body to react in unusual ways. Ill-fitting running shoes may pinch the toes, heel, or ankle, forcing the muscles to work harder to maintain balance. This increased demand on the muscles, bones, and ligaments of the feet are often to blame for swollen feet during or after a run.
Improper Running Technique
Finally, using improper running technique may also cause swollen feet. While running, you should take long strides, landing on the ball of your foot, and also using this part of the foot to push off the ground into the next step. Runners who land on their heel or sole increase stress and trauma to the foot, and may develop a painful injury. Consider consulting with a physical therapist or exercise physiologist if you require more training on proper running technique.
Managing Swollen Feet
Even with the best of efforts, some runners are still prone to the development of swollen feet. If this is you, management of the condition -- versus prevention -- is your best option. Elevating swollen feet after a run can be one of the most effective ways to eliminate the signs and symptoms of this condition. Applying an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes may also aid in vasoconstriction, thus preventing blood pooling and managing moderate to severe foot swelling.
- American Council on Exericse; ACE Personal Trainer's Manual
- American Council on Sports Medicine; ACSM's Resouce Manual of Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription