I have a client who loves running. It is her raison d’être! So when she started having pain this past winter on the lateral superior part of her foot she became worried. She took several days off and iced; but, the pain did not seem to go away. In fact, it was so painful when she ran a week later that she thought it could be a stress fracture. After I told her this was highly common and typical for runners to experience this when changing running terrain she had a huge sense of relief. In Ottawa, Canada it snows a lot in the winter. Runners accustomed to smooth surfaces (i.e. sidewalk, bike path, road) a.k.a. summer running, can experience problems when going on uneven terrain (i.e. running in the snow and ice, trail running, mud running).
The lower legs has two muscles running down the lateral sides, the peroneal muscles: longus and brevis. The brevis is directly under the longus and both simultaneously act to evert the foot and assist to plantar flex (point) the ankle. The peroneal muscles are seriously overtaxed when running on uneven terrain (i.e. snow, ice, mud, rocks, roots) because each foot strike goes through eversion to accommodate the terrain and make sure the foot remains stable and proprioceptive.
If you were to run for 3 miles, you are striking your foot to the ground approximately 5000 times, creating repetitive mechanical trauma. Many people cannot keep up with the massive amounts of eversion in the feet because their calves and peroneal muscles are not strong enough. A simple way to alleviate the problem is to stretch them out and strengthen them with YTU exercises.
Here are some YTU stretches for your peroneus longus and brevis: The calf stretch against the wall while internally rotating you back foot to create more of a stretch in the peroneals shown in the clip below and on the Quick Fix for Feet and Ankles video. 2. Dandasana everting and inverting the foot; but, pay special attention to the inversion, you can even hold your foot in inversion for a few seconds for more stretch. 3. YTU ball rolling on the plantar fascia where both the peroneals insert, mid-arch, in addition to rolling on your lower legs, calf and shins.
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Great information on how to respond to foot pain and the possible causes. Runners and non-runners will fully appreciate these stretches and ball role techniques. I find that I experience this lateral pain through the lower leg and am conscious of foot positioning. Looking forward to implementing these into my daily Rolling routine!
Good info on the peroneals. I see a lot of runners with tight lateral tissue bands running from the ankle to hip and most don’t understand why. Specific intention into caring for the lower leg is where I have them start. Strength and stability in the ankle and loose well oiled tissues make for a more enjoyable run.
I just started a running program and this is exactly the stretch I was praying for the last few days. Will give it a try.
Kristen, I experienced calf smashing today at teacher training consequently my peroneals where screaming stretch me, stretch me no more calf smashing . So thank you for this informative blog. I know my trail running experiences will be elevated to a new level with a consistent calf stretching and foot ball rolling. Nancy
Thanks for posting about how to care for the peroneals. I injured my peroneus longus back in January and it’s still all yucky. I’m going to try the stretches in the video and wow it’s cool to learn that by rolling out the plantar fascia I can help my peroneals that way too. Yay!
this is so interesting. I’d never heard of runners having trouble with their peroneals before. another useful bit of info for my toolkit!
Thanks for that information. Wow that’s a lot of abuse for the body with every step. These are also great rehab exercises for a severely inverted Ankle Sprain I would think. So important to suport the Deltoid ligament, and all lateral structures post a trauma of over stretch. Could definitely help with re- injury.
Yikes! 5000 strikes in 3 miles DOES seem like mechanical trauma indeed. I absolutely love outdoor hikes, slow burn to the top, working the gluteals, stretching the gastroc… then reaching the top and running down the trail. There is this blissful almost uncontrollable freedom, and some adrenaline rushing in barreling down the rocky, dirt, uneven trail. I’ve always been amazed at how intuitively my feet and ankles find their way to the Earth without me stumbling head first but now I realize why, for days, I feel like I have, what in lay terms many people say is “shin splints.” Thanks to Kristin’s article I know that it’s from perpetual everting of the foot to support the uneven terrain and the paining of one onerous peroneous(or 2… Or more accurately, 4).
I am an avid runner and find myself consistently doing a similar stretch as shown about the one mile mark. It is nice to gather a deeper understanding of why that works so well for me. It would seem that stretching and being able to efficiently tap into the peroneus muscles to maintain the alignment of the lower leg/ankle relationship might also help to protect the knee.
Great video, and I especially like that you did not evert or invert the foot but kept it straight. I see to many runners stretching strongly everted feet, which can actually make the problem worse.
Interesting to know that the peroneal muscles attach to the plantar fascia. I have experienced IT band syndrome which ultimately lead to lower leg pain and then plantar fasciitis. Keeping the TFL stretched, rolling the IT band, the peroneal muscles, and the plantar fascia have kept me in the running game. It is so comforting to know that there is a way to balance the pounding and habitual nature of running. I also highly recommend the Chi Running technique, which is based on awareness and moving from your center.
Thanks for this article. Yes the repetitive motion can be taxing on our bodies especially as we have less than ideal surfaces we run on such as concrete, uneven running surfaces etc. As part of our yoga tune up training today we discussed some genetic components or past injury issues that limit our range of motion in the ankle joint thus causing for some interesting biomechanic issues with running. As you were saying some people may have a stride where they supinate where as others pronate more depending on their individual mechanics as well as habits they may have developed. There seems to not be one right answer to this as we are all unique but stretching the gastroc muscles as well as aiming to keep the ankles flexed, head upright looking at the horizon without the chin jutting out in extension, hips are symmetrical, arms swinging anterior/posterior movement vs. lateral movement and ideally landing between heel and midfoot for many not all runners. I know the minimalist concept is out there right now and I am wondering how this works when many of us live in a concrete world where we are not running on earth surfaces such as dirt, sand, grass etc. Most important we all have our individual make ups and need to find out what works best for the individual. Thanks for a wonderful post and exercises.
Kristin this is a beautiful article! Many runners have a hard time with injury because of the consistant repitition of the sport and just need to take some time to recover. One thing to consider is their foot placement. Sometimes runners plantarflex too much which can cause them to to toe strike. The ideal strike is a midfoot strike. Teaching the ankle joint to move in its correct motion takes a lot of effort and persistance, I would also recommend them paying attention to how their ankle is moving to create a response in foor how they are striking the ground.
I made the transition from being an occasional runner to an avid one after breaking in a pair of minimalist running shoes. Once I felt the changes in my body arise, I was hooked! I gained better posture while running, less tight hips, and happy knees, not to forget toned calves as well. In January, however, I broke my ankle and had surgery. With a plate and six screws in my ankle, I have yet to run again; even stepping off of the bus feels strange. While I am eager to get back into my thin running shoes, I fear that the jarring motion will aggravate my ankle, or my knees will take the brunt of the motion. Walking and yoga have been great for my injury, especially yoga as it gently strengthens my atrophied limb and restores my range of motion, but I do feel other parts of my body working harder to support the ankle. The lateral inferior sole of my foot feels strange and tight– perhaps it is still compensating for the injury. I look forward to adding these exercises to the mix, further stretching and thus increasing the range of motion of my ankle. Hopefully I’ll be back on the trails very soon!
Such interesting information. I have always avoided running as a fitness activity because of the pain that I would experience in my feet. I had simply figured that it was a part of running that I would have to accept. However, I’m glad to see that there are exercises/asanas available which could help this activity become a more enjoyable experience. Thank you!!
krisitin this is such valuable information! As a passionate runner trying to correct my over eversion in the foot and hip external rotation. I have increased my foot strike awareness drastically, but these extra tips will be very handy. Thank You : )