The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Is Your Foot Injured or Just Sore? NYC Podiatrists Offer Ways to Tell If Your Sore Feet from Running Are Injured or Just Achy

Posted by on Friday, November 13th, 2015


Just about everyone has experienced a day that made their feet hurt. It may have been a particularly challenging run, a long work day, an evening in uncomfortable formal shoes, or an entire day spent on one’s feet — shopping or cooking. Whatever the case may be, pain that does not subside right away becomes a concern. Is it possible you’ve injured yourself? Or are there types of foot aches and soreness that hang around for a while? Nothing beats an evaluation at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, our NYC foot specialist practice, but we’ll provide you with a few clues about when to see a doctor about foot pain.

sore feet from running
Do you have sore feet from running or other activities? We can help you find out whether you’re headed for an injury or just recovering from overuse. Image Source: Flickr CC user Paulaltobelli

 What Is Soreness?

We think of “soreness” in terms of overtaxed muscles, tendons, and ligaments that cause mild discomfort for a period of one to three days. Usually there is some inflammation, temporary lactic acid buildup, and maybe even small micro-trauma tears in the connective fibers. Sudden increases in the duration or intensity of the use of your feet are often to blame.

Tell-tale signs of foot soreness generally include the following symptoms:

  • The pain feels more like a dull, broad aching, rather than a sharp, stabbing, shooting pain.
  • The pain presents in both feet equally in the same areas.
  • The pain peaks in intensity 48 hours after exercising, but resolves within three or four days.*
  • The pain is worst when standing, walking, or running.
  • You may also feel sleepier than usual and surprisingly hungry/thirsty.

*Note: One exception is marathon-level pain, which can last for up to 10 days.

How Do I Know If I Have a Foot Injury?

Injuries tend to have more intense, concentrated pain that persists for a longer duration of time and actually worsens without treatment. Causes of foot soreness may include stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis, or any number of other conditions.

Tell-tale signs of foot injuries may include the following symptoms:

  • Pain lasting for a week or more.
  • More serious pain present on one side.
  • Limping or altered running and walking patterns as a result of the pain.
  • Constant, nagging pain that persists even when you’re sedentary.
  • A small focus of pain that hurts when pressed.

What to Do Next

Soreness and injury are not always mutually exclusive. If you continue to “work through the pain” of sore, inflamed, traumatized tissues, you could easily rupture a ligament or tendon, or cause such instability that a bone cracks. Both injuries and soreness can be deceiving because the pain often subsides slightly after several minutes of running or warming up. However, soreness on its way to becoming an injury will cause runners to have pain that lasts longer and longer into the run.

Training intensity and volume should always be reduced during episodes of soreness to prevent injury development.1 For instance, if you’re a marathon runner, always take the day after racing off. Instead, try walking a couple miles, swimming, rowing, elliptical training, or cycling for a bit to reduce impact from the sore areas and maintain fitness. Keeping a high metabolic rate during periods of soreness can help you recover quicker — as long as you do not stress the area that’s sore. If you do not notice improvement within three days of cross-training or if the pain persists for more than two weeks without any running, then seek professional help.

Another piece of advice we have for avid runners is to change out your running shoes. Many people are shocked at how quickly their generalized foot pain disappears with a new pair of sneakers. Three months may seem like a surprisingly short lifespan for a pair of shoes, but the most active athletes can easily wear through their soles in that brief amount of time. Check out our post on when to buy new running shoes for more information.

If you live near Manhattan or Westchester, NY, get further assistance from our board-certified podiatrists.




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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.