Squats are designed to strengthen your legs, abdominals and back. When completed correctly, squats are an effective strengthening workout. However, like all types of exercises, when completed incorrectly squats can be dangerous. Since squats are a weight-bearing exercise, completing a squat incorrectly can lead to pain in your feet. Squats can aggravate an existing foot condition or create a new problem. Consult your doctor if you experience persistent foot pain during squats.
Metatarsal Stress Fractures
Metatarsal stress fractures are common overuse injuries that are the result of repetitive stress or strain placed on the metatarsal bones. The metatarsal bones are the bones found in your mid-foot that connect your rear foot to your toes. Metatarsal stress fractures are the result of frequent weight-bearing activities and most commonly affect the second and third metatarsal bones. The pain of a stress fracture is most prevalent when you participate in exercise or other weight-bearing activities such as squats. The pain tends to subside or even disappear completely while resting. Stress fractures can be treated with rest and activity modification -- participation in non-weight-bearing activities until the fracture has healed. Your doctor may also immobilize your stress fracture with a removable walking cast.
Morton's neuroma is often the result of repetitive motion in your foot that places a large amount of stress on the balls of your feet. Morton's neuroma causes pain over the entire ball of your foot. This pain is likely to radiate to your toes. You may also notice numbness, burning, tingling or a sensation that resembles an electrical shock. Improper form during exercise, such as performing squats while your feet are not firmly flat on the floor may lead to Morton's neruoma. This condition is most common in young to middle-aged women who wear ill-fitting shoes as well. The pain of Morton's neuroma will likely subside when you avoid squatting or other weight-bearing exercises. This condition can be treated with rest and the use of orthotics to help ease the pressure placed on the balls of your feet.
Tendinitis, the inflammation of tendons, can occur in the heel, foot or in the back of your lower leg. This inflammation is often the result of overuse. Repetitive stress placed on your feet can lead to tendinitis. Tendinitis can also be the result of poor mechanics while squatting. It can also be aggravated by continuing to perform squats and other exercises despite your painful feet and legs. The pain of tendinitis can range from moderate to severe. Pain often increases with participation in exercise and will tend to decrease upon rest. Tendinitis usually clears up on its own with rest, icing and participation in non-weight-bearing activities until pain has subsided. A doctor may recommend physical therapy to strengthen and stretch your tendons, which can help prevent reoccurring tendinitis.
Foot problems from squatting can affect your toes, mid-foot and your rear-foot. Conditions that may affect your toes include corns, calluses, blisters, high arches, bunions, hallux rigidus and athlete's foot. Your forefoot may experience pain while squatting due to a strain, nerve entrapment, inflammation of the flexor tendons, cuboid syndrome, a tarsal coalition, blisters or swelling on the ankle tendons. Your rear-foot and heel may experience pain as the result of Achilles tendinitis, bruised heels, blisters and plantar fasciitis. Proper form should always be followed while performing squats. Your feet should be flat on the floor to support your body weight. Allowing your feet to rock forward onto the balls of the foot or backward onto your heels may cause injuries or aggravate existing injuries.
Is This an Emergency?
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; National Academy of Sports Medicine
- Sports Injury Clinic: Foot Pain, Heel Pain, Toe Pain
- American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine: What Is a Stress Fracture and How Should It Be Treated?
- American College of Sports Medicine: Safety of the Squat Exercise