Heel Pain after Running: Causes and Treatment

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A man in the park who have heel pain after he running

Introduction

Although running is a healthy form of exercise or workout, running can actually put a lot of stress on the feet especially if it is not done properly. Running can cause pain and swelling not only to beginners and overweight people but to athletes too. Running can damage your legs and feet in general if you don’t have the proper form of running. It can also damage your feet if you are not wearing the proper shoes for running. If you plan on running, you should buy the proper shoes for running. Running shoes have different types of cushioning depending on the type of feet that you have. It is important to get running shoes with the proper cushioning that would match your feet’s structure. The surface where you are running also has an effect on the soles of your feet. Running on the sand, for example, is not ideal as it can cause damage to your knees. Overtraining can also cause damage to the muscles and tissues in your feet.

There are a lot of possible injuries that a runner can have if he/she does not follow the does and don’ts of running. The most common problem that athletes and runners experience is heel pain. Heel pain usually heals on its own after resting the aching heel for a couple of days or weeks. If you experience accompanying symptoms such as fever, extreme pain, numbness or tingling in the heel, inability to walk, inability to push the toes up or the foot down, pain at rest, pain that persists more than a month despite conservative treatment, go see a doctor immediately.

Causes of Heel Pain after Running

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is also called Runner’s Heel. It is one of the most frequent injuries that affect athletes which is characterized by an arch on the foot and a sharp pain in the heel. This condition is caused by sudden increases in the running mileage, inappropriate running shoes, and poor foot structure which can strain the plantar fascia which is a connective tissue that moves along the bottom part of the foot and attaches the heel bone to the ball of the foot. The plantar fascia is composed of collagen. This collagen is a protein that looks like a rubber band but is not very stretchy. Overusing this or using overused shoes can cause tears on the collagen which leads to inflammation and heel pain which is also known as plantar fasciitis.

Heel pain can also be caused by a pulled muscle in the arch, bone spurs, calcaneal stress fracture, Achilles tendonitis, heel bursitis, and bruised fat pad.

A bone spur in the heel bone is a calcium deposit that causes swelling or a pointed bony outgrowth of the bone on the heel.

A calcaneal stress fracture is a common condition experienced by runners or running athletes. It is a defect in the bone that is often an effect of trauma or repetitive load.
The pain initially starts after running for a certain amount but it gets better when at rest. In calcaneal stress fracture, the pain comes gradually over time but it gets worse with an activity that is weight bearing such as jumping and running.

Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury that causes inflammation, degeneration, and/or pain of the Achilles tendon which is found at the back of the ankle near the heel. The Achilles tendon links the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is used to walk, jump, stand, and run on the balls of the feet. Intense activity done continuously can result in Achilles tendonitis.

Heel bursitis is the swelling and inflammation of the bursa or the sac filled with fluid that is located at the back of the heel bone. It may be caused by a repetitive trauma to the bursa from weight-bearing activities such as jumping and running especially with poor technique and muscle control. It can also be caused by a sport-related impact contusion or a trauma after an accident or fall.

Treatment of Heel Pain

Since pain in the heel has quite a number of causes, the treatment basically depends on the underlying condition that causes the pain. A doctor may recommend you to take anti-inflammatory medicines like aspirin and ibuprofen to reduce the swelling and pain. Only take this medication with doctor’s advice even if these medications can be bought over-the-counter.

The best way to treat heel pain is by resting even just for a week and by staying away for activities that can worsen or trigger the heel pain such as jumping, run, or stand on your heels for a long time. If you feel better after resting your heels for a week, it’s ok to go back to running but do it gradually.

Applying an ice pack on the heel for 10 to 15 minutes at least twice a day can help reduce swelling and pain.

Wear the proper shoes for the type of foot that you have, shoes that have enough support and fit properly. Use an orthotic or a heel cup to provide extra cushioning on the heel.