If you are suffering from heel pain after running or exercising then it could be the start of Plantar Fasciitis, a common injury for people who exercise.
The plantar fascia tissue stretches from the tip of your heel across the sole of your foot to your toes and is there to help your foot maintain it’s arched appearance. When you exercise and pressure and stress is placed on the plantar fascia, it can become torn or damaged, leading to pain, inflammation and soreness, especially on the heel.
If you have just discovered this injury, then the best course of action to stop it from getting any worse will be as follows:
1. Stop exercising.
Running with plantar fasciitis can be the worst thing you can do. Although you might not feel the pain when you are running (after a while) you are just doing more damage to the tissue and you will regret it later.
Plantar fasciitis will heal on it’s own, but if you continue to run, you risk making the pain much worse and the recovery times much longer. I know that this might be the hardest thing for a runner to do, but resting your feet is the best medicine for painful heels.
Take at least a week off from any exercise that involves weight bearing down on your feet (running, football etc).
If you must exercise, try something with less stressful impact, such as swimming or yoga.
2. Ice, ice baby!
Ice is a great treatment for plantar fasciitis and should be used to help reduce any swelling or inflammation if you have heel pain after running. You can either use a gel ice pack, which are available from many places or online, or use a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel if you have nothing else to use.
The ice will help keep the pain from getting any worse and will help speed your recovery time too. Another great tip is to use a frozen plastic bottle of water which you can roll under your foot to relieve any pain. This is also great because it is free
3. Massage your feet and heels.
You can use your hands to massage the area of your heel affected by the pain, but there are products that are better that just doing it yourself.
Pedi rollers and foot massage balls are excellent as you can roll your foot over them when they are on the floor, directing the massage to the right place. Some of these products can also be used by putting them in the refrigerator first or heating them in the microwave to add an extra level of pain relief.
These products really are the unsung heroes of helping reduce heel pain after running and should be used as soon as possible after your exercise. If you can’t afford a proper massage product, a tennis ball rolled under the sole of your foot will give a similar effect.
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4. Stretching helps too.
You probably already stretch before and after running anyway, but adding a few more stretches to your routine will help decrease any heel pain problems. This is because tight calf muscles and plantar fasciitis are linked, so making sure you give some extra focus to stretching these muscles will help. You can also do some simple rotations of the feet and pointing the toes up and down.
For extra benefit, perform some toe stretches by sitting with one leg crossed over the other and pulling back your toes so you can feel the stretch across the sole of your foot. This simple exercise is great for treating plantar fasciitis related pains.
If you can touch your toes, try doing the toe stretch at the same time and you will be stretching your calves and fascia at the same time.
The best way to help reduce heel pain after running.
Many runners find that what they might think is just a small injury is actually plantar fasciitis and the heel pain is a tell tale symptom that means you need to address the problem straight away. Painful heels after running can be enough to stop people from exercising completely, so try some of these points. In my opinion, stretching and rest are the most effective, although I always ice my feet after running as I have plantar fasciitis too.