3 Smart Tips to Prevent Heel Pain from Running
Consistent heel pain is always a sure sign that something needs to change. And if it is happening during or after a run, that’s all the more reason to take action!
We understand that some runners might be wary of asking for help about heel pain, for fear that they may be told to stop running. But that’s the last thing we want you to do! Being active provides a host of benefits for the feet and ankles, and our primary goal is always to help you stay moving longer and more comfortably through the future.
If heel pain has been present during or after your runs, we highly encourage you to schedule an appointment with us. We can determine what is at the root of the problem and recommend a treatment plan that greatly relieves or outright eliminates your discomfort.
In the meantime, however, there are still some steps you can take now to help prevent or reduce heel pain while running. We cannot guarantee these will all significantly help your particular situation, as different causes of heel pain require different forms of treatment. However, they are still great general tips for anyone to follow, and knowing what works and what doesn’t for your particular case can be great information for making a diagnosis.
Take Time to Stretch
Certain parts within the foot and lower leg can contribute to heel pain, depending on the specific condition causing it. The plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles can be culpable in cases of plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis, for example.
Incorporating stretching of these areas into your routine can not only help better prepare your body for running, but generally condition these areas to better resist injury. Stretching before and after a run is a no-brainer, but taking time to stretch in the morning or during the day can be helpful as well.
Some stretches to consider include:
- Standing Dynamic Calf Stretch – Stand with your feet at shoulder width apart. Place the heel of one foot about 12 inches in front of you and flex the foot upward. Keeping this leg straight, shift your weight onto your other leg while bending slightly at the knee. Simultaneously, shift your hips back until you feel a stretch down the back of your extended leg. Hold 5 seconds, then flex your foot again for 5 seconds. Repeat 3 times per leg.
- Heel Raises – Stand with feet at shoulder width apart. Slowly raise both heels off the ground while keeping your knees straight. Hold for 5-6 seconds, then slowly lower down. Repeat 8-12 times. (A variation of this stretch involves lowering your heels off the edge of a step. In any case, always make sure you have something to hold onto for safety and stability.)
- Wall Stretch – Stand at arm’s length from a wall (or tree) with hands upon it at shoulder height. Step back with one leg, then slowly bend your front leg forward until you feel a stretch. Keep the back leg straight and heel on the ground. Hold 15-30 seconds, repeating 3 times with each leg.
These are just a few of many different helpful stretches. Please don’t hesitate to ask us about a regimen that may best serve your needs.
Check Your Footwear
If your shoes aren’t up to the task, they could very well be doing your heels more harm than good.
Any good running shoe must be made for the task. That means no walking shoes, tennis shoes, sneakers, etc. should be considered. But that isn’t all you need to consider.
The right shoes will also be properly supportive of your feet and arches, and may also need to accommodate certain abnormalities such as flat feet or overpronation. We can help point you toward the best types of shoes for your needs, as often can a trained associate at a sporting goods store.
Be mindful of wear, too! Running shoes that did a great job at the start will eventually wear out. Most running shoes tend to need replacing every 300-500 miles. However, if you’re recently starting to feel pain during or after runs that you hadn’t before, it could be a sign to replace your shoes now.
Review Your Routines
We said we want you to keep running, and we mean it. However, it’s still possible to have too much of a good thing.
If you are challenging your body more than it is currently conditioned to handle, that can easily open the way to heel pain (as well as other injuries). Similarly, if you are spending a ton of time hitting the pavement and not giving your body enough time to rest and rebuild, that can lead to overuse injuries such as stress fractures.
Take an honest look at your current routine and whether it might be contributing to your sports injury risk. A good routine should:
- Start at a low intensity and gradually build up – no more than a 10-15% increase in intensity per week.
- Incorporate cross-training that conditions other muscles while allowing the ones you primarily use an opportunity to rest.
- Incorporate actual rest days as well, allowing for fuller recovery.
If you are uncertain about your routine, please do not hesitate to discuss it with us, your primary care physician, or a fitness professional. Some alterations now – even if it means a little reduction in overall activity – can help you keep moving stronger and more comfortably well into the future.
Let’s Keep You Running
Whether you have persistent heel pain or other problems that challenge your running routine, Third Coast Foot and Ankle has the knowledge and treatments to help you find effective solutions. Don’t try to ignore or push through symptoms – get the help you need sooner rather than later!
Schedule an appointment by calling either of our offices:
- Oak Creek – (414) 764-4500
- New Berlin – (262) 821-1588