3 Most Common Causes Of Pain After Leg Day

Muscle injury. Man with sprain thigh muscles. Athlete in sports shorts clutching his thigh muscles after pulling or straining them while jogging on the beach.

**This is a guest post by my friend Megan P. Howard**

Whether you’re a runner or cyclist, leg day is a critical part of your training regime. However, the constant repetition of both these activities can cause problems with your feet. This is especially true for runners because of the impact of each stride.

Foot pain is highly problematic because it affects every aspect of your life. It not only prevents you from training for your next race, but it can also cause major issues in your day-to-day activities. Many athletes also find it exceptionally difficult to give the inflammation or injury sufficient time to rest, as so much of life is based on our ability to walk or stand.

With foot pain, especially if it’s intense, it’s important to find out the cause as quickly as possible. Trying to push through the pain or not treating it effectively, you could make things a lot worse and increase your recovery time significantly.

Let’s look at the three most common causes of foot pain that runners experience and what to expect if you’re suffering from one of them:

  1. Tendonitis

The posterior tibial tendon supports the inside of your foot and arch, and it can get inflamed if it’s overworked. This can be caused by too much exercise without the proper support in your shoes, as well as a lack of stretching before and after a session.

What Does It Feel Like?

The pain can be quite intense, with a throbbing or burning sensation running up the inside of the foot and into the ankle. At first, you’re only likely to feel the pain after running or completing your leg day workout. However, as the condition worsens, you’ll start to feel it while training. There may be some localized swelling over where the tendon runs too, which will be visible to the naked eye.

Treatment For Tendonitis

The most important thing to do is rest to reduce the inflammation. Icing the area regularly can help, as can the application of an anti-inflammatory gel. Stretching the tendon comes next, and this is done by rotating your foot outwards to the side and pointing it down.

If the condition persists, consider seeing a healthcare specialist to ensure you treat it properly. If tendonitis is left untreated or you start exercising again too soon, you could end up with a collapsed arch.

  1. Plantar Fasciitis

If you suffer from this condition, the thick webbing or ligaments (the plantar) connecting the back of your heel to underneath your toes becomes inflamed or damaged. This ligament provides cushioning and acts as a shock absorber when walking or running. Plus, it’s an important part of the support structure for the arch of your foot.

Runners who do a lot of trail running or sprinting on hard surfaces are most prone to plantar fasciitis. However, it can also occur if you increase your distance, train more often, or wear shoes that don’t cushion your feet properly.

What It Feels Like

The most telltale sign that you have plantar fasciitis is feeling pain in the heel after resting. Often, runners suddenly notice they’re experiencing discomfort when getting up in the morning, or after spending a long period of time sitting down. This is because the ligament has stiffened up due to lack of use and needs to warm up again.

The pain usually starts in the heel but can be felt in the arch of your foot too. The early stages typically are a dull ache that feels similar to muscle stiffness. As the condition worsens, the pain can get a lot sharper and more intense.

How To Fix It

In most cases, rest and proper stretching can sort you out in a week or two. Icing the area two to three times a day will help, as will topical or oral anti-inflammatories in more severe cases. Once you can get up in the morning without feeling the pain in your foot, you can get back to running. Just be sure to start out slowly with short distances until you can be sure the condition won’t flare up again.

In a worst-case scenario, you may need physiotherapy and surgery. If you aren’t feeling any improvement within a few days of resting properly, it might be time to speak to a specialist.

  1. Stress Fractures

The human foot comprises several small bones that are prone to stress fractures, especially from the repetitive impact of running. The problem is, once you have a stress fracture, any pressure on the foot will cause pain–even if you are doing low impact sports like cycling or weight training for leg day.

Again, this condition can be caused by increasing your exercise regime–running longer distances or lifting heavier weights in the gym can be the culprit of your foot pain. Shoes without enough cushioning can exacerbate the problem, as can insufficient recovery time between training sessions.

How Does It Feel?

A stress fracture is a broken bone, so it will be fairly painful. The most common place for these fractures to occur due to exercise is in the front of the foot, between the arch and the toes. The pain is usually localized to the exact spot of the break.

In the beginning, the fracture may present as a mild discomfort and get progressively worse over the weeks as you exercise. If you experience pain in your foot, even if it’s mild, ask yourself if it’s localized and feel if the area is inflamed at all.

What Is The Recovery Process?

It’s important to have a stress fracture diagnosed by a doctor. They may request an x-ray to see the extent of the damage. Then, it’s a six to eight-week recovery period that relies on you resting and keeping the foot elevated as much as possible–and no impact exercise during this time. It’s essential to listen to your doctor, or the small fracture could turn into a full break.

These three conditions are common amongst runners, and all take time and patience to heal. If your leg day workout is leaving you in pain and you’re regularly suffering from any of these ailments, you need to take a step back and rethink your regime.


Author Bio: After she had to quit working in an office in 2016 due to osteoarthritis, Megan started her writing career specializing in educational copy. As she was researching many topics around arthritis, she decided to partner up with a long-time friend and built Find my Footwear. She spends her days writing and studying topics ranging from human resource management to mobility.