Whether you get moving to chase personal goals, improve your health, or just have some fun, the last thing you want is a persistent heel pain problem limiting your time and performance.
Heel pain is one of the most common issues for athletes of all types and proficiency levels, and it’s pretty easy to see why. From running to basketball to skiing, our feet and heels can face plenty of repetitive impacts and stress.
Sometimes, if you’re not careful about how you work out, you can leave yourself more open to a heel pain-causing condition.
To understand how best to protect yourself against heel pain—and what to do if you get it—it’s important to know how athletes tend to develop it in the first place.
Hard Bumps and Sustained Lumps
Yes, it’s possible to sustain heel pain from, say, having your heel slammed into the turf on a nasty tackle. In these cases, however, you can be relatively sure just what caused the problem—and you’re very likely going to get it checked out!
More often, though, your heel pain may be a mystery. Maybe it’s worst just after a workout or run, or maybe it doesn’t really start to bother you until you get out of bed the next morning. It’s these kinds of persistent conditions that don’t often receive the help they deserve.
Often, heel pain in athletes can be traced to one word: overuse.
Each of our bodies is conditioned to take so much strain at a time. We increase these levels by working out—essentially breaking our bodies down on a cellular level through exercise, then having those cells rebuild stronger and better while we rest.
However, if you push the body too hard, or continuously stress it without giving proper time to rest, you can soon find yourself with a painful overuse injury.
How can you find yourself in such situations? Well, by:
- Not taking time to warm up with some dynamic stretching before working out
- Pushing your body intensely from a state of relative rest, such as taking off into a hard sprint without any previous activity
- Pushing yourself day after day without giving yourself any rest days
- Focusing on only one type of activity for extreme amounts of time (such as long-distance running every day)
Such behaviors can greatly increase your risk of something in your feet becoming overstrained and injured. A number of these injuries can result in heel pain.
Common causes of heel pain that can result from overuse include:
- Plantar fasciitis. Aggravation and inflammation of the thick band of fibrous tissue that runs beneath the foot, connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes
- Stress fractures. Hairline cracks that can develop along the surface of a bone, like cracks on ice. This often occurs due to repetitive stress without resting
- Achilles tendinitis. Aggravation and inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Pain from this condition tends to be felt in the back of or just above the heel
These are not the only conditions to consider, but they tend to be among the most frequent.
How to Reduce Your Risks of Overuse Injuries
There is plenty you can do to reduce your risk of overuse injuries and the heel pain (and other problems) they can cause. Here are a few of the most effective:
- Wear the right equipment for your activity. Worn-out walking or athletic shoes are not going to provide nearly the amount of cushioning and support your heels need. Your shoes should have the proper fit, not be worn down, and be appropriate for your activity. An associate at a sporting goods store can help you find your best match.
- Warm-up properly. This includes at least a few minutes of dynamic warm-ups. In other words, not just standing still and stretching, but some light jogging and other movements, too. We can help you determine a good warm-up routine for your needs (as well as a cool-down).
- Increase your intensity gradually. You should not increase the intensity of your workouts more than 10 percent per week, as measured by distance or weight. For example, if you start off running 5 miles in a week, you should not go beyond 5.5 miles the next. Taking too big of a jump can push your body too far.
- Listen to your body. Sometimes, even 10 percent can be too much. If it feels like you should be dialing things back a bit, do so! It’s much better to improve slowly than outright delay yourself with pain.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that there may be additional risk factors that are more difficult to control on your own. Having an abnormal foot structure, like flat feet, can place more strain on your plantar fascia or other areas and leave them more prone to trouble.
But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck!
Find Help for Heel Pain Now!
The longer you wait for heel pain to go away on its own, the longer you keep yourself suppressed. Addressing the conditions behind your problems is the best way of getting back to full strength faster and preventing future heel pain from happening.
Once we have evaluated your heels and gotten to know more about your activities and goals, we can personalize a treatment plan that will best suit your needs. This might include a simple period of rest and stretching, or perhaps more advanced treatments such as laser therapy or custom orthotics.
Whatever the solution is for your heel pain, we’re here to help you find it. schedule an appointment with us by calling (208) 733-0436 for our Twin Falls office or (208) 678-2727 for our office in Burley.