Heel Pain: A Runner’s Most Common Injury

By Dr. Travis Jones
Northside Hospital Cherokee Sports Medicine Program

Plantar fasciitis, or heel pain, is one of the most common foot injuries runners experience. This is because the band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes can become stressed, causing pain.

Heel pain occurs more frequently in runners and competitive athletes due to overuse injuries, stresses and repetitive impact, but can also be caused by a single traumatic episode.

The key to preventing heel pain is to choose supportive shoes that provide cushion. In addition to adequate shoe support, consider switching them out every six months. This will ensure your feet and joints are well supported. But getting new, solid-performing shoes is only half of the equation. Be sure to stretch before and after workouts. Increased flexibility helps prevent injury because your joints are able to move through a full range of motion while you run.

Treatments for plantar fasciitis include icing, shoe inserts, manual therapy, relative rest, stretching, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and wearing a night splint as recommended by your doctor. Night splints resemble a big boot and are simple and painless to use. They are effective because they keep the foot in a relatively straight position and at a 90-degree angle with the leg.  Some patients respond to conservative physical therapy. But what is most important is to address the cause of the pain.

During recovery, it’s important to keep exercising and maintain aerobic fitness and general body strength. Aerobic exercises can be done without weight bearing in a pool or stationary cycling.

When you’re ready to hit the pavement, consider taking shorter strides when running or walking and try to avoid landing on the balls of your feet, or even on your tiptoes because this could stress the plantar fascia more, not less. Aim to land on your heel with each step, ideally toward the front of the heel, around the middle of the foot.

Dr. Travis Jones serves as a foot and ankle specialist for the Northside Hospital Cherokee Sports Medicine Program, providing care to high school athletes throughout Cherokee County.  If you have experienced a sports injury, call 770-517-6636 to discuss how we can assist you with your specific condition and return you to peak performance.

Visit NorthsideCherokeeOrtho.com for more information