Plantar Plate Injuries: A Runner’s Nightmare

Plantar Plate Injuries: A Runner's Nightmare title card

Introduction

Are you a runner who occasionally feels pain in the balls of their feet? Although there are many conditions that can cause pain in the ball of the foot, only few are common among runners.  

Guess The Injury

Stress fractures are frequent, and may be worrisome, but differ from some other conditions.  Another condition is called a neuroma, which is a product of painful nerve swelling in the foot.

Another condition, which often can be misdiagnosed as the aforementioned conditions, is called a plantar plate injury.

Plantar plate injury graphic from Podiatry Today
Plantar plate injury graphic from Podiatry Today

Plantar plate injuries range from a plantar plate sprain, tearing, to full blown ruptures.

A plantar plate injury can be described similarly to having an ankle sprain, but only in the small toe joints of the foot.

In the 2021 NFL season, the Kansas City Chief’s quarterback Patrick Mahomes was diagnosed with a plantar plate injury known as turf toe.

The plantar plate is a ligamentous attachment to the joints in the balls of the foot (think of them as the ligaments that connect to the toes to the rest of the foot). Every time we take a step, we are activating and stepping down on our plantar plates which function to keep the balls of our feet planted, which also keeps our toes in the same place as we walk.

Runners and active individuals have a tendency to overload the balls of their feet, causing stress to the plantar plate. Over time, this can cause the toes to drift, stay cocked up, and cause a nagging pain with increased activities.

What Can We Do?!

It is important to see a specialist as soon as possible. This is to ensure appropriate steps can be taken! Our job is to slow its progression and keep it from getting worse.

Treatment can often be as simple as shoe modifications and custom orthotics, or as complicated as surgery for tears and ruptures. 

Furthermore: Be weary of pain in the ball of the foot, and if you do start to notice a sharp or aching pain, get it checked out ASAP. 

If you seek treatment early, you may still be able to participate in that race you’ve been training so hard for.


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