Heel pain in runners - what can be done?

Posted on: 13 April 2016


Running is a high impact exercise which can cause a number of different physical problems, most of which relate to the knee and the foot. Perhaps one of the most common issues affecting runners is heel pain; this is often the result of inflammation of the fascia, a band of tissue connecting the toes to the heel bone. This tissue helps the foot to absorb shock, and also provides supports for the arch. Inflammation of this tissue is referred to as plantar fasciitis. In runners, this condition usually occurs after a sudden spike in mileage, or a surface change (for instance, switching from the treadmill to the road). According to Runners' World, those with excessively low or high arches are more likely than most to suffer from heel problems.

What are the symptoms of plantar fasciitis?

Stiffness, along with either a sharp or dull pain in the heel are the main warning signs that you may be experiencing this condition. The pain is often exacerbated by intense physical activity, prolonged periods of standing, and walking up and down stairs.

What should I do if I think I might have this injury?

If you believe you may have Plantar Fasciitis, it is best to go your local podiatrist, or your GP as soon as possible. In the meantime however, there are some measures you can take to lessen the pain and reduce the chance of further inflammation occurring. Try to keep your foot elevated and apply ice to the heel up to three times a day, for no more than 20 minutes at a time; this should reduce swelling. Until the injury is treated by a medical professional, it is  best to avoid any exercise which may worsen it. Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, and wearing arch-band supports, can also be helpful.

What can a podiatrist do for me if I have plantar fasciitis?

A podiatrist will use their own medical expertise, along with a range of diagnostic equipment, to determine the exact nature of the injury. Podiatry Today explains that they may use MRI, ultrasound and radiograph technology when assessing the problem. Based on their findings, they will then recommend a treatment plan, which might include the runner wearing custom-made orthotic insoles, receiving corticosteroid injections, or purchasing footwear better suited to those with this condition. Additionally, the podiatrist may refer their patient to a physiotherapist. Rarely, in cases of very severe and persistent heel pain, one of two types of surgery may be recommended; detachment of the fascia, or lengthening of the calf muscle. However, in most instances, less aggressive forms of treatment can be used to manage or eliminate this kind of heel pain. For more information, contact offices like McLean & Partners.