Feeling pain in the heel after running is more common than it seems at first glance. Some runners do not give it importance, thinking that it was a bad gesture or a small overload, but neglecting this discomfort in the heel can lead to an injury that will keep you from running for a while.
Heel pain after running is a sign that something is not working properly. It may be the natural effects of aging, repetitive stress, the wrong shoes, or a combination of factors can responsible for its onset as well as its persistence.
About 58% of Americans have experienced heel pain, according to a survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association. If you are one of them or you want to avoid being one of them, in this article we will talk about what causes heel pain after running, how it can be treated and how to prevent it.
Causes of heel pain after running and how to treat it
Before you can treat and prevent heel pain, you need to know what is causing it, here are the most common injuries that occur in the heel area:
- Plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. It occurs when the tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes (the plantar fascia) is inflamed.
People with plantar fasciitis report that the pain is worse first thing in the morning. During sleep, the arch and plantar fascia assume their natural positions, but that first step in the morning causes the tissue to stretch again, often with microtears creating a lot of pain. Long periods of sitting or standing can also elicit a similar response.
Runners are at higher risk for plantar fasciitis because it usually occurs due to repetitive impact activity, which clearly describes running, as well as intense activity.
Plantar fasciitis occurs in runners who don’t use the right shoes for them, exceed kilometers or are overweight, so the best way to prevent it is to avoid the above. As a treatment, experts usually recommend putting ice on the area, giving massages, rolling a ball or, in some cases, the use of insoles may be necessary.
- Achilles tendinitis
In Achilles tendonitis, heel pain after running occurs from injury to the tendon that attaches the calf to the heel bone. The pain begins to be noticed after training and progressively increases in intensity. This is located in the upper part of the ankle, but you will be able to notice the whole area around it sore.
The causes of this injury are the sudden increase in intensity, using shoes that are not appropriate or maintaining an incorrect running technique. The most serious cases can cause breakage, however, it is normal for it to be solved by taking some measures. Some of things you can do are:
- Wear shoes with moderate heels to relieve pressure on the damaged tendon. - Use a towel to stretch the heel or use a step to stretch and strengthen the fibers of the Achilles tendon and calf. - Massage the calf and tendon to stimulate blood flow and healing. - Use anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain only temporarily.
- Chafing or inflammation
While the repeated impacts against the ground, together with poor cushioning, can cause the fat in the heel to swell, an incorrect size or poor quality socks can cause chafing in the heel area that prevents you from running normally.
The first case, the inflammation of the heel fat, is very annoying and can prevent you from running and even walking normally, since every time the heel hits the ground you will feel a lot of pain. In the case of chafing, it is not such a serious problem, although it is necessary to prevent it by wearing shoes of the correct size and wearing running socks.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
If you feel a kind of whiplash in the heel, you may have tarsal tunnel syndrome. This injury is due to compression of the posterior tibial nerve, that is, the one that innervates the heel and sole of the foot.
It also usually generates a tingling sensation when walking. Corticosteroid injections are used to relieve pain, although surgery is sometimes necessary.
The first thing we must do is analyze what the cause is and make the appropriate changes in our training to reduce the painful symptoms. We must reduce or even suspend sports activity, train on softer surfaces or temporarily switch to another sport that does not cause us pain.
Also, using the right equipment is essential in any activity, are your shoes the right size? Is it time to replace your shoes?
How to prevent heel pain after running
- Increase the intensity gradually
A good way to avoid heel pain is to make sure you're not at increased risk of overuse injuries. That's why it's important to add miles or increase intensity slowly. Follow the 10% rule and run no more than 10% longer than the previous week.
- The surface matters
Another common reason for heel pain is that the surface is too hard. Asphalt and concrete can be really hard on your feet, especially if you're older, so try to mix things up. Run on grass, a trail, the beach, or a track to give your feet a little variety.
- Warm up and cool down
You have to get your body ready to run and then have a chance to cool down as well, so don't skip the 5-10 minute warm up and 5-10 minute cool down.
- Use the right shoes
To prevent heel pain, your running shoes, besides being the right size for you, also need to have enough cushioning to be effective. So, make sure you change your shoes periodically!
- Check out your running technique
Maybe you need to improve your running technique to relieve the pressure on your heels.
For more information, talk to one of our Fitness Experts and get customized advice by submitting a request in our Mavyn website, Mavyn app or Mavyn Fitness page.