Like the Energizer Bunny, runners—especially long-distance ones—want to keep going and going and going, and just like mailmen and women “neither snow nor rain nor heat” will keep dedicated runners from their training. So, if you’re one of our Bay area runners, we know you may be tempted to keep going when you have some pesky heel pain. A word to the wise – don’t!
Heel pain from running will get worse without treatment, especially if it’s caused by the most common culprits: plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Both of these are soft tissue injuries, affecting the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon, respectively.
With plantar fasciitis, you will feel pain under the heel when you get out of bed in the morning. It’s best not to keep training at the same level you had been. The pain will seem to go away after you’ve started walking around, but it will come back if you don’t seek treatment.
The best thing for you to do at this point is cut back on the running—even though we know that can be hard to do—until the plantar fascia has healed. That’s a great starting point, but you will also need to stretch the affected tissues and make a gradual return to your running program, or risk having the same thing happen over and over again.
The other common cause of heel pain (Achilles tendinitis) can develop when the Achilles tendon is overworked. Whereas your Achilles is a very strong tendon—strongest in your body, actually—it isn’t infallible. In this case, heel pain is experienced during and immediately after activity. You will find that pain becomes more intense over time, and especially if you aren’t taking the appropriate measures.
Just like with plantar fasciitis, you will need to give your body time to rest and heal itself. This means cutting back on your running until you are better. You will also benefit from stretching, medication, and icing the inflamed tendon.
You can help your body heal, and even reduce your risk of sustaining these injuries in the first place, by going with a more-balanced workout program. Instead of just running, you should consider cross-training by incorporating some low-impact activities into your exercise routine. Swimming, cycling, yoga, and even walking are all great options for this. So, think about running 3-4 times during the week and then picking some low-impact exercises for the other days.
If you are having heel pain from running, give our Berkeley, CA office a call at (510) 647-3744 and request an appointment with our foot doctor. We will be glad to determine what is wrong (because there are other possible causes) and then create a treatment plan so you can get back to running as soon as possible!