The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Why Do My Feet Feel Heavy When Running? NYC Podiatrists Answer Your Questions

Posted by on Monday, October 2nd, 2017

We all know running is one of the best forms of cardio on the planet. Maybe you bought that new pair of running shoes with good intentions. You were going to hit the open road, putting one foot before the other and continuing until you reached that glorious endorphin release known as “the runner’s high.” You were going to fall in love with running, and it would be your pathway to good health and longevity.

But despite your best intentions, you may find it harder than expected to get past the sensation of your feet feeling heavy when running. It’s as if you’ve got two cinder blocks attached to your feet! Our NYC sports medicine doctors hear this complaint a lot from patients who want to know if there’s something wrong and what they can do to overcome this awful feeling of inertia. Today, we explore the possible reasons why your feet feel heavy when running and offer some tips to help you become more fleet of foot.

Feet feel heavy when running?
Do your feet feel heavy when you run? NYC podiatrists list some possible causes. Image Source: Pixabay user Wokandapix.

Poor Circulation

Poor circulation is one of the chief causes of “cinder block” feet. If you sit at your desk all day, spend long periods driving, or generally cross your legs when you sit, you may suffer from feelings of heaviness in your lower extremities. Diabetes, varicose veins, C.O.P.D., and smoking are other culprits behind impaired circulation that NYC podiatrists are equipped to address. Medical intervention may help in these cases. If lifestyle is the issue, something as simple as changing positions throughout the day, stretching, and walking around the office can be enough to keep the blood flowing.

Weight Gain

Weight gain due to pregnancy or overeating combined with a sedentary lifestyle places undue stress on the feet and legs. People report feeling a difference with as little as a 2 percent weight gain. Small-scale weight gain is often caused by fluctuations with water retention, so we advise patients to be conscientious about how much carbs and salt they consume. Engaging in low-impact exercise—such as the elliptical trainer, swimming, or a recumbent bike—is a good way to shed some extra weight before picking up a higher intensity activity like running.

Vitamin Deficiencies

A lack of magnesium, iron, or folate in your diet will cause you to feel gravity’s effects more keenly. These nutrients are required for the production of hemoglobin, the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen through the bloodstream. Improving your diet by eating leafy greens, legumes, seafood, meat, lentils, and fortified whole wheat will help you combat overall fatigue and malaise.

Dehydration

Sweating makes you lose water and electrolytes—and you sweat a lot when you run. Electrolytes ensure the muscles and nerves function properly, so a lack of electrolytes causes the body to feel sluggish and dysfunctional.

Dehydration also depletes blood volume, which deprives your muscles of oxygen. The general recommendation is to drink eight glasses of water a day, but sports medicine doctors tell their patients there is no true “one-size-fits-all” guideline. Drink water whenever you’re thirsty, and remember that your urine should be light-colored. Bring a water bottle along with you on any run lasting longer than 30 minutes. When temperatures outside are high, fuel up with a sports drink prior to a run.

Running Surface

Generally speaking, harder surfaces equate with greater pounding. Running across uneven or hilly, hard-packed dirt, concrete, or pavement will cause you to drag more. Some people find their best runs take place on a running track or a treadmill; others swear by barefoot sand running. If your feet are hurting, take some time to experiment and find the best running surface for you.

Conditioning

Sometimes you overuse the same muscles over and over again. Cross-trainers who do a combination of cardio, cycling, weightlifting, and other activities find that running doesn’t cause as much stress when thrown into the mix. The best runners participate in drills that help them become lighter on their feet. If you can stand it, try running with ankle weights to enjoy a freer feeling when you run without them the next time.

Shoes

It may sound obvious, but if your feet feel heavy, maybe it’s because of your shoes. Having too little support and cushioning can place excess stress on your joints, causing inflammation and fatigue. On the other hand, having a shoe with too much heel counter or too much filler can weigh you down. You want to find the best shoe for your particular feet. We’re happy to give you a full exam to help identify your foot type and needs, but in the meantime, check out these NYC podiatrist-recommended running shoes for injury prevention. Don’t forget to switch out your sneakers roughly every 500 miles (or every six months) for maximum comfort.

Foot type

People who excessively roll their foot inward (pronation) or outward (supination) as they walk will experience some hardship when starting a new running routine. Our state-of-the-art gait analysis center is a great place to go if you have questions about how efficiently you’re moving. Sometimes it’s a matter of choosing the right footwear for your foot shape. We often recommend custom-made orthotics to keep the stride neutral. If necessary, we have all the technology in-house to get you set up with an affordable pair.

Form

Ideally, your foot will hit the ground lightly and quickly. Extending your foot out in front with a locked knee is going to lead to problems all the way up the kinetic chain. Try taking shorter strides for a lighter feeling. Focus on running on your forefoot rather than trying to strike with your heel and roll. One study found that 74% of rearfoot-striking runners suffered stress injuries—double the rate of forefoot strikers. Imagining you’re running on water or eggshells can help you hit the ground more lightly.

Lack of Support

Your feet may feel heavy because your heart is heavy. Finding a supportive coach to help you through this hurdle can be all the answer you need! Stop by the Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine to find a passionate community of runners with the medical expertise and resources to help you. We offer two locations, in Manhattan and White Plains, with computerized gait analysis and sports medicine experts (who are also avid long distance runners themselves).  There’s no time like the present to get your concerns addressed so you can overcome these obstacles and get back on the path to loving running! Contact us today to learn more about our services.

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.