Heel Pain from Running: Overview


Heel pain is common among athletes in sports that involve a lot of running. Plantar fasciitis has sidelined dozens of top athletes, including Evan Longoria (MLB), Antonio Gates (NFL) and Pau Gasol (NBA). Physical activity often leads directly to heel pain. But how? And once the heel pain is there, what can you do about it?

How Does Heel Pain from Running Happen?

Running is quite popular as a basic exercise activity — the running shoes market alone is $2.5 billion, for example. Here’s the problem, though: running, while a great source of exercise, can also lead directly to several types of injuries.

This happens because running causes your feet to regularly make significant impact with a hard surface, which leads to stress. Repetitive strain on different areas of the foot impacts even treadmill runners.

The major ligament in the human foot is the plantar fascia – a stretchy band of tissue that spans the arch of the foot from heel to ball. This elastic ligament is strong enough to support the arch of the foot and bear your weight, and it is designed to flex within a narrow range of motion as you walk or run. The repetitive stress of running can place undue strain on the ligament, resulting in the small tissue tears and inflammation that characterize Plantar Fasciitis. The band of tissue can then begin to suffer from too great a range of motion, which in turn affects the motion of the heel bone, resulting in pain typically centered at the bottom or sides of the heel. In this environment of ligament looseness and inflammation, bony protrusions of calcium – called heel spurs – can form on the heel bone, increasing painful sensations as they prod soft, fatty tissues when you walk or run.

One of the notable symptoms of plantar fasciitis is morning heel pain.

What Can You Do About Heel Pain from Running?

You may be familiar with the acronym “RICE,” or rest-ice-compression-elevation — which tends to work on a lot of lower-body sports injuries. It doesn’t work perfectly for heel pain and plantar fasciitis, but we have a variation of it here:

  • Rest: A logical first step for any exercise-driven injury.
  • Ice: Limit to 20 minutes or less, though. Any longer can actually harm recovery time.
  • Stretch: This can do wonders for speeding up recovery; check out a heel pain and stretching video we made to help you out with this.
  • Support: Consider orthotics or special shoes.
  • Contact professionals: We actually have a patient helpline at 877-215-3200 to help you out with all variations of heel pain.
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