Causes of Heel Pain After Running, Plus Treatment and Prevention

Cause of Heel Pain After Running:

The cause of heel pain after running is different than the cause of back of foot or calf pain. There are many causes of heel pain after running. They include:

1) Runners tend to overstride, which results in excessive stress on the lower leg muscles.

These muscles may become tight due to improper training and/or injury. Tightness in these muscles can result in Achilles tendonitis, which can lead to heel pain.

2) Runners tend to wear high heels when they run.

High heels have been associated with increased risk of developing shin splints and other injuries such as plantar fasciitis. High heels increase the pressure on the lower legs and may contribute to heel pain after running.

3) Runners often run barefoot or use minimalist footwear (shoes without soles).

Barefoot runners tend to put less stress on their feet and ankles. However, wearing minimalist shoes can decrease the arch support of your foot and make it more susceptible to injury.

4) Runners tend to run too fast during their runs.

Too much force is placed on the ankle joint because of excessive speed. If you are a runner, you probably know how painful it feels when your ankle joints get stiff after running too hard for long periods of time. Running too fast can cause injuries to your feet and ankles.

5) Runners often wear shoes that are too small or do not fit properly.

If there is too much pressure on specific parts of your foot, this can cause pain not only in the foot but also in the ankle and lower leg. It is important to buy running shoes that are the right size for your feet.

6) Runners often land on their heels when they run.

This is known as a heel strike. A proper running stride will have a forefoot or midfoot strike. Keep in mind that it is not always possible to avoid striking your heel when running.

7) Runners who are new to distance running tend to tense up or contract their muscles when they run.

This can cause pain in the feet, ankles, and lower legs. Relaxing the muscles can help to alleviate the pain.

Treatment of Heel Pain After Running:

If you are experiencing heel pain after running, you may want to seek medical attention from your family physician or local podiatrist. You should also rest the injured area until the pain subsides. The following strategies may also be helpful in relieving heel pain:

1) Wear motion-control running shoes.

These shoes provide added support to the foot and ankle. They are especially helpful for people with flat feet or low arches. Wearing these types of shoes can help to prevent injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and Achilles tendonitis.

2) Stretch the calf muscles and Achilles tendons.

The gastrocnemius and soleus (also known as the calf muscles) are prone to becoming tight and shortened. This is especially true for runners who over-stride or land on their heels. Stretching the calf muscles and Achilles tendons can help to alleviate pain in the feet and ankles.

3) Ice the injured area.

Placing ice on painful areas can help to ease the pain and reduce swelling. Apply ice to the injured area for 10 minutes and then remove it for 10-15 minutes. You may need to do this up to three times per day. Do not place ice on swollen areas, as this can cause frostbite.

4) Apply a brace or orthotic device.

Wearing a brace can help to stabilize the foot and ankle. Some people find that using an over-the-counter orthotic device helps to reduce pain in the feet and ankles. Your podiatrist can make a custom-made orthotic device that can help to alleviate pain felt in the feet, ankles, and legs.

5) Medications.

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) may be helpful in relieving pain. These drugs can help to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.

In cases of severe pain, your physician may inject the area with a corticosteroid. This can decrease swelling and relieve pain. Injections can be repeated every three to four months, but the long-term effectiveness is questionable. Injections may also have side effects such as skin thinning, loss of cartilage and infection.

6) Rest.

It is important to give your foot a rest, as running can cause fatigue and stress on your feet.

Heel and foot pain can be quite uncomfortable and frustrating. If you’re experiencing heel pain after running, your best course of action is to see your podiatrist. Your podiatrist is trained to assess and treat foot and ankle problems. He or she can determine the cause of your pain and design a treatment plan to alleviate it.

Sources & references used in this article:

Effectiveness of foot orthoses for treatment and prevention of lower limb injuries by P Hume, W Hopkins, K Rome, P Maulder, G Coyle… – Sports Medicine, 2008 – Springer

Painful heel syndrome: results of nonoperative treatment by PF Davis, E Severud, DE Baxter – Foot & Ankle International, 1994 – journals.sagepub.com

Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis by lontophoresis of 0.4% Dexamethasone: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study by SD Gudeman, SA Eisele, RS Heidt JR… – … American journal of …, 1997 – journals.sagepub.com

Results of surgery in athletes with plantar fasciitis by RE Leach, MS Seavey, DK Salter – Foot & ankle, 1986 – journals.sagepub.com

Fortnightly review: Plantar fasciitis by D Singh, J Angel, G Bentley, SG Trevino – Bmj, 1997 – bmj.com