Can You Run on a Sprained Foot?

Can You Run on a Sprained Foot?

First, thank you all so much for the kind words on yesterday’s post! I appreciated the support so much and am so grateful for the running community.

I have an official diagnosis after yesterday’s podiatrist appointment: I sprained some ligaments in the top of right foot (near where my ankle and metatarsals connect) and ever so slightly shifted my cubiod bone (which connects the heel and metatarsals). The sprain was from my slip and fall in a hike a couple weeks back and while the 30-something miles I ran on it didn’t make it worse, they didn’t help the recovery process. (Thankfully, practicing smart hiking techniques including using trekking poles prevented this mild sprain from being a much more severe injury).

Can You Run on a Sprained Foot?

I guessed at a sprained ankle in yesterday’s post, and I was not too far off – ankle or foot, the result is the similar. The doctor manipulated the bone back into place (ouch) and taped up my foot, which after the initial weird feeling of the manipulation my foot felt better than it had in days.

My completely honest emotional reaction? I’m happy it’s not a stress fracture or something worse, I’m relieved to know what was causing the pain (uncertainty is distressing), and I’m not upset by it. A sprained foot is so incredibly minor compared to the hardships too many people across the globe endure on a daily basis, that it’s not worth getting upset about. Sprains are a risk that you take when you run and hike.

I’m just glad I nixed running last week and didn’t make things worst.  And, as Suzy said in the comments yesterday, at least a sprained foot comes from an acute injury, rather than a biomechanical problem.

Of course, there’s the question I asked the podiatrist and I’m sure you are wondering as well: can you run on a sprained foot?

The answer is no. I mean, I’m sure I could, but the fact of the matter is that I will recover much more quickly and reduce the risk of future sprains by taking the next 2-3 weeks off of running. So what will I do instead? 

Can You Run on a Sprained Foot?


Since nothing is fractured and I can bear weight on my foot, I can still cross-train over my 2-3 hiatus from running. Cross-training will maintain my fitness and still produce those endorphins that will keep me from going completely stir-crazy. My preferred cross-training at the moment is the elliptical, and yesterday Meredith shared several good elliptical workouts for runners. If I become completely intolerant of the elliptical, there are also some spin bikes and spin videos at our apartment’s gym, although indoor cycling has always bored me. 

Goal Assessment

I won an entry to a local half marathon the other day, but since the race is in 3 weeks I had to turn down the entry. I can’t just do a race as an easy run, so even if I’m back at running by then, I don’t race just to run easy. I race to push myself hard, not to ease back into long distance running after what will be a total of 3-4 weeks of cross-training (since it’s already been one week since I last ran). And I know that while I may have discipline in my training, I do not possess the discipline to hold back when in a competitive setting. 

Of course, 3-4 weeks off of running requires reassessment of marathon goals. Yes, cross-training will maintain my fitness, but the end goal of training is not to maintain fitness but to build peak race-specific fitness. Unless I do long runs on the elliptical, I won’t be improving my marathon-specific fitness. So we will see what happens regarding the Jack and Jill Marathon, but even if I miss it, there are always other marathons (especially out here, in the land of nearly year-round racing). 

Strength Train More 

Since my mental limit to the elliptical is 60 minutes (and my feet begin to go a bit numb by then anyway), I’ll have more time and energy for strength training. Now is a better time than any to add more strength training sessions to my training, especially as hiking season peaks up and I could benefit from more strength overall. 

Be Patient

Easier said than done. But honestly a total of 3-4 weeks off of running with the option to cross-train is far, far preferable to a chronic injury or months off of running. 

[Tweet “Can you run on a sprained foot? #fitfluential #runchat #injury #sweatpink via @thisrunrecipes”]

Have you ever sprained your foot or ankle?
Do you run races even if you aren’t in peak shape?
What do you do to stay sane fit when you can’t run?


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19 Responses

  1. Wow, well I guess this is good news in a way, in that you know what the issue is and there is a clear timeline for recovery! The elliptical seems like a good substitution and will definitely help you keep some of your fitness. I have done races when I am not in peak racing shape. I’ll use them to see where I am and just to change things up/challenge myself. I don’t really run races at an easy pace though, I alway push myself at least a little!

    1. Thank you! My thoughts exactly, much better than worrying about it being a stress fracture or tendonitis. And the elliptical gives a surprisingly good workout – especially with high resistance it feels like hill running!

  2. you always have the best attitude which is why I enjoy reading your posts every day. I am so glad you found out the issue and know you will heal up quick since you take good care of yourself! thank you for sharing my elliptical link. I can handle the elliptical just fine but yeah, the bike in my gym would bore me too. I do not use it often! I am glad you can keep up with the low impact cardio and now have time for more strength training and pilates which is great! in a few weeks, you can reassess where you are for this marathon and like you say, there’s always another race if this one doesn’t work but I bet it will!

    1. Awww, thank you Meredith! I’m glad I went in – shifted bone is a good thing to have caught! After they manipulated it back (still gives me the shivers to think about) and taped it I’m walking around without pain or discomfort, which is a good sign. Thank you again for the elliptical link! I did the one where you increase up the resistance for 20 minutes then climb down and extended it for an hour – good workout!

  3. So sorry your injury means a layoff for a few weeks, but at least it’s only a few weeks and you can cross train. I know it’s not the same as running but you probably won’t lose much fitness and it sure beats an extremely long layoff or one where you can’t cross train (I’ve known some injured runners who were hurt and could only swim!). It was smart of you not to run on it and to go to the doc and get a diagnosis… I’ve known many people to run on injuries and that just makes it worse in the long term and makes recovery tougher.

    1. Thank you! I agree completely – a short cross-training segment is much, much preferable to a long layoff or swimming (I can’t swim). Not much fitness will be lost, and honestly (as I’m sure you’ll understand) I was more worried about losing half marathon speed than anything with the marathon. Speed takes a while to build up!

    1. Thank you so much, Alyssa! My foot is feeling better – the manipulation of the bone (ew, bone stuff is so gross) and the tape relieved a lot of the discomfort.

  4. I think I maybe sprained my foot once or twice as a kid playing soccer but that’s about it. If I had an injury, I’d have to get up super early and head to the gym to ride the stationary bike. It SUCKS, but I need to sweat otherwise I’ll go batty. Hoping you recover quickly, Laura! I’m sure you’re a real treat to be around right now ;). HA. Kidding. ish.

    1. Thank you, Suzy! Same here – I need to sweat otherwise I go nutty. I’m in a much better mood now that I know what’s wrong with my foot and when I can expect running – the unknown is the worst. Although I did go a bit crazy today and spend far too long looking for other marathons around Washington/Oregon/BC…

  5. Was thinking about you yesterday and this morning and meant to send you a message to check in. So happy you have a definitive answer for you foot. You will be back at running before you know it and will be stronger (mentally and physically) because of the rest from running! ~ Aimee 🙂

  6. I am REALLY digging your positive attitude about this. Seriously, mad props to you for that. It’s so easy in the wake of a diagnosis like that to throw yourself a pity party and spend the next few weeks complaining about not being able to run, but like you said, things could be so much worse. Plus you’re right that there are always other races – and if you went that route you’d just have even more time to train!

    I actually find the stationary bike less boring than the elliptical, but maybe that’s because the only time I’m on an indoor bike is in a spin class which is at least engaging. I wonder why more gyms don’t offer the elliptical equivalent of a spin class. That would be cool.

    Last fall I did two half marathons while not in peak shape, and that is something I will never do again. I did well all things considered but I just felt deflated and frustrated after each one.

    1. Thank you, Hanna! I was a bit bummed because it may be no-go on the marathon (since like you I’m not the type to run a marathon just to run it, I want to do well) but there’s always other marathons, whether they’re a few months later or next year. An elliptical class would be cool! I’ve heard some places are now offering treadmill classes, so it wouldn’t surprise me if elliptical was next.

  7. Nice to come across your post. I have a sprained foot after running 105 laps on a school track (26.2m). I now have a 50 miler in 3.5 weeks. Playing it by ear. I can walk most of it if I have too. Hate losing all the training not to mention dollars. G

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