Why Do the Top of My Feet Hurt When Swimming the Freestyle?


Swimming is an activity that requires movement from many of your body's joints and muscles. Swimming can put a great deal of stress on the feet when swimming, and this stress can lead to varying degrees of pain. This pain can be caused by tendonitis, cramps, or inflexibility, and if you understand the cause, the easier it will be to manage the pain.


  • Feet play a key role in your swimming ability and often dictate how fast you can move through the water. They act like the body's flippers in the water. During freestyle, backstroke and butterfly, your feet are in a pointed position, and during breaststroke they are in a full range of motion from pointed to flexed. During your swim, your leg muscles put stress on the feet to propel you through the water.


  • Tendonitis is one of the most common causes of foot pain when swimming. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this develops when performing a flutter or a dolphin kick due to the repetitive up and down movement of each kick. The pain can present itself in the front or back of the leg but is more often observed in the front. If you suspect your foot pain is caused by tendonitis, seek medical attention in an effort to alleviate your pain.


  • Flexible feet and ankles provide you with a wider range of motion during your kick and will increase your kicking efficiency. The anterior tibialis muscle is the primary muscle used in pointing your feet, and often this plays a role in your ankle flexibility. If your ankles are too inflexible that could potentially lead to pain and discomfort as your feet are put under the stress of kicking. This can be remedied by engaging in out-of-water ankle strength and flexibility exercises. Writing the alphabet with your feet each day, for example, will improve your ankle flexibility and possibly alleviate foot pain when swimming.


  • Cramps are another common swimming injury that can affect the feet. Cramps can occur when pushing off the wall, sprinting, wearing fins, kicking fast, when improperly hydrated, or in times of nervousness. Muscle cramps can occur in the calf, foot or toes and can be painful. You should be properly hydrated before and during any swim session; slowly implement new and physically stressful workouts, and stretch often. Stretch your ankles by sitting on top of them with feet pointed and heels together.

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