According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, running causes an impact around three times a person's weight.
Heel pain can occur due to a few different reasons, but one of the most common causes is plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the ligament that runs under the soles of the feet.
The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs under the soles of the feet. It connects the heel bones to the front of the feet. The plantar fascia also supports the arch.
The fascia normally acts as a shock absorber, but repeated stress to the heel can lead to small tears in the tissue. Inflammation develops in the fascia as a result of the tissue damage. When this occurs, the condition is called plantar fasciitis.
There are a few different causes of plantar fasciitis. The ligament can become inflamed due to repeated force from high-impact activities and sports that involve a lot of jumping. Wearing high heels may also place added stress on the fascia.
Having a job that requires a lot of standing or walking increases a person's chances of developing the condition. People who are flat-footed may also be more likely to develop plantar fasciitis. Flat feet can cause an uneven distribution of weight when someone walks, which puts added stress and pressure on the fascia.
Some stretches can reduce heel pain and protect against plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis can disrupt workout routines. Continuing to do certain activities can make heel pain worse. But sitting idly by and not exercising is unhealthy.
It is possible to still work out when dealing with plantar fasciitis. The key is to avoid activities that place a lot of force on the heel.
People should consider doing activities that don't usually involve impact to the heel, such as rowing, swimming, and lifting weights.
Stretches for plantar fasciitis
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, certain stretches may help reduce heel pain and prevent plantar fasciitis from reoccurring.
People who have plantar fasciitis pain in the morning may want to do the stretches as soon as they wake up.
- Sit in a cross-legged position at the end of the bed or a chair. Place the affected foot over the knee of the other leg. Grab the heel of the painful foot with one hand and the toes with the other hand. Gently pull up on the toes while at the same time pulling up on the heel. Bending the toes up stretches the fascia. Bending the ankle up stretches the Achilles tendon, which may help decrease pain. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds. Relax the foot and repeat 10 to 20 times. If both feet are affected, repeat on the other foot.
- Sitting in a chair, hold the leg out straight and flex and extend at the ankle joint. This exercise stretches both the fascia and the calf muscle. Repeat 10 times on each foot.
- Place the hands on a wall, keep the back leg straight and the heel down. Pull the hips forward towards the wall until the stretch is felt in the back of the lower leg. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat several times. If the heel on the opposite leg hurts, repeat the stretch on that leg too.
The most common symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain in the heel. Some people also feel pain in the arch of the foot.
Usually, the pain starts off mild and is often felt first thing in the morning when stepping out of bed. Pain also tends to be felt after sitting for a long period. Although it can vary, discomfort often decreases after walking around for a while.
Some people also experience pain when climbing stairs. Participating in intense activity, such as running, may also cause pain.
The pain from plantar fasciitis can last a long time, and complications can develop. Scar tissue can form due to continued inflammation of the fascia. Once scar tissue forms, it's harder to treat the condition and pain can persist.
Plantar fasciitis can also lead to pain elsewhere in the body. For example, when someone has heel pain, they may change the way they walk without realizing it. Knee, hip, and back problems can develop due to changing body movements.
Self-care treatments can help reduce the pain and inflammation linked with plantar fasciitis. In some cases, home treatments may be all that are needed to reduce the pain linked with the condition. People with plantar fasciitis can consider some of the following self-care treatments:
Home treatment options
An ice pack wrapped in a towel can help reduce heel pain.
- Ice: Ice can be applied three or four times a day for about 15 minutes at a time. Applying ice directly to the skin can be uncomfortable. Instead, people should wrap an ice pack in a towel and place it on the heel.
- NSAIDs: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also help reduce discomfort and inflammation.
- Orthotics: Foot orthotics are custom foot supports to place in the shoes. Orthotics can support the arch, which helps evenly distribute the weight placed on the heel when a person walks. Over-the-counter arch supports are available, or a physician can prescribe custom-fitted ones.
- Splint: A splint worn at night may also be recommended. The splint stretches the arch and calf, and may decrease discomfort.
- Switching activities: It may also be helpful for people to switch from high-impact activities, such as running, to something easier on the heel. Low-impact options include swimming and walking.
Medical treatment options
Although home treatments may be enough to decrease heel pain from plantar fasciitis, they may not always work. Additional medical treatments may be recommended, such as:
- Steroid injections: In cases where heel pain continues, steroid injections may be an option. Steroid medication that reduces inflammation can be injected into the tender area of the heel. Frequent steroid injections can weaken the ligament, so injections cannot be given too frequently.
- Surgery: When all other treatments fail, surgery may be an option. There are a few different surgical procedures that may reduce pain. For example, a procedure called a plantar fascia release involves partially cutting the fascia ligament to reduce tension of the tissue.
Stretching can be helpful in decreasing symptoms of plantar fasciitis and also preventing the condition from developing. In addition to stretching, there are a few things that can be done to prevent developing plantar fasciitis.
People can start by wearing the right shoes. High heels should be avoided since they can place stress on the heel. Shoes with a moderate heel that have good arch support may help prevent plantar fasciitis.
Going barefoot should also be avoided. The lack of support could lead to heel pain.
It is important to make sure that athletic shoes provide good support and cushion the feet. According to the Mayo Clinic, running or athletic shoes should be replaced every 500 miles. It's also a good idea to start exercise slowly and gradually increase intensity to prevent plantar fasciitis.